Carsick Cars (Carsick Cars)
From Music-China Wiki
- (c) that's Beijing Blog, Berwin Song, October 13, 2007
By now, the names Carsick Cars and Snapline will be familiar to anybody who’s had even the most fleeting look at the Beijing music scene – and even if you haven’t had a chance to see them live, you’ve probably heard of them. You might recall that Carsick Cars was supposed to open for Sonic Youth when they came to Beijing; maybe you heard that Snapline was signed to Invisible Records in Chicago. Yet for all their buzz-worthiness, a band’s true legacy is made by what they leave behind – and finally, they’ve each got an album to their name.
The scene being what it is, we’ve been able to witness each band grow – it’s notable, of course, that these two bands share two members: Li Weisi handles bass duties for both, while Li Qing switches between drums for Carsick Cars and guitar/keyboard for Snapline. Yet the two bands couldn’t sound any more different. Carsick Cars’ songs, driven by the sonic squeals and feedback from Jeffray Zhang’s guitar, are still primarily based on bright, open tunings, retaining a springy poppiness. Meanwhile, it’s Li Qing’s melodic sensibilities that set the tone for Snapline’s grungy, industrial sound – under the production and remastering skills of Martin Atkins, the group has never sounded darker; Chen Xi’s semi-logical vocals (in English), have never sounded more ominous. A bonus from the Atkins sessions gets tagged onto the end of Pornostar; it’s entitled Yellow Cab, and features the “Martin Atkins China Dub Sound System” (made up of Snapline members, Zhang, and the Subs’ Kang Mao). As a studio document of how far these bands have come, these albums are essential listening for anyone interested in Beijing music.
- (c) City Weekend, Jenn Wong, November 30, 2007
Widely hailed as one of the brightest talents to come out of China in many a yue, wonderkids Carsick Cars exploded onto the Beijing scene in the spring of 2005. Fast forward two years and they now dominate the scene to such an extent that it is cooler to be unimpressed by them than know about them. They’ve broken out of the Beijing backwater in a big, big way, playing shows in Prague and Vienna in support of Sonic Youth this year. Furthermore, in the spirit of incestuousness endemic to any decent rock scene, two of Carsick’s members are garnering praise in side projects such as the popular local act, Snapline, and the experimental noise band, White.
Average laowai first learned of Carsick Cars last year when Sonic Youth hit Beijing. The conspicuous absence of an opening act was Carsick Cars, who were prohibited from playing at the last minute, despite having been specifically requested. A welcome surprise out of the ridiculous debacle is the validation that the band is no one trick pony, not just another blip in the nearly saturated Beijing rock scene. Their shows over the past year have seen the threesome grow into a mature, disciplined and well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine.
Their first full length record, endearingly entitled "This Is Panda Noise," is a truly exciting development for the band. Coming in at just under an hour, it’s one of the great albums of 2007. The song lyrics, predominantly Chinese, are simple and the rhythms mesmerizing. The two English songs on the record are blissfully vague, reeling with phantasmic lyrics and an intensity that's a treat in the generally vapid atmosphere of Chinese rock n' roll. Recorded at Longyue Wenhua in Beijing and produced by singer and poet Yang Haisong (of PK14) the album is another smash success by local up-and-coming label Maybe Mars Records, which has previously released albums by Snapline and Joyside, as well as a fantastic PK14 tour video.
The genius behind all of this craziness is guitarist, singer and band leader, Jeffrey Zhang (Shouwang), whose uncanny ability to create catchy pop hooks that collide in perfect harmony with wild screeching guitars seems to only grow stronger with each passing month. There is a reckless abandon to any Carsick Cars live show—catastrophe and screaming noise and running, dancing rhythms—and in the middle of all of this there is Jeff, breathless and clutching at his guitar, shimmering with a crazed and bewildered sort of light.
The band has already played every venue of note in the country, and been showcased in countless music festivals in China and abroad. What will be most interesting is seeing what they will produce next. In a phone interview with Yang Haisong, he confirmed that the band was laying plans to record another album in early 2008, possibly in Germany. First they take Beijing, then they take Berlin.
- (c) 8 Inches Productions, Ian Sherman
Recently everything I read about D22 kingpins Carsick Cars mentions that they are now Sonic Youth’s BFFs. This becomes brilliantly obvious within approximately seventeen seconds of pushing play on this, their first album. CSC have made a sinophone Sonic Youth album, plain and simple. This is a good thing; while the vast majority of their fellow D22ers wallow unimaginatively in the swamps of punk, postpunk and garage, the Cars draw their inspiration from elsewhere; a dash of krautrock, a pinch of Suicide, a sprinkling of Television, a healthy dollop of the Velvets and, as already mentioned, a shitload of SY.
In a way Carsick Cars are D22’s dream of an oriental No Wave scene made flesh – indeed, CSC mainman Jeffray Zhang (also a member of White) has already set up his own, as yet largely unsubstantiated, ‘No Beijing’ movement. This album is good – much better than their live shows have suggested. The first half is blinding – energetic experimental guitar music bursting with ideas. Zhang likes his drones, never met an effects pedal he didn’t like and tunes his guitar å la Thurston Moore – all good. The zeal of the first half – culminating in the bouncy hymn to cigarettes ‘Zhong Nan Hai’ – unfortunately dissipates in the relatively tired second half (apart from album highlight ‘He Sheng’). It’s in the album’s closing stages that CSC’s major flaw reveals itself. Under all the noisy whizzbang, Carsick Cars have only a meager stockpile of actual tunes. It’s as if Zhang spent all his time learning how the pedals work and very little on the notes. Still, this is only a minor gripe about an otherwise unexpectedly fine piece of work.