Most people associate Korea with really well produced, totally professional and internationally successful K-pop boy bands and girl groups. But there is a really exciting alternative music scene and in this post we want to share some of the music by our favorite Korean punk and Indie bands.
Yes. In the “man eat dog” world of Korean music it’s the massed ranks of synchronised girlie bands that have garnered most attention, but there is a small but significant “underground” scene too. What strikes me here is the sheer “professionalism” of the tracks. Clearly helped by advances in technology, even the scrattiest of punk bands can now produce a decent sounding ( and looking) recording.
Sakura - Brick Slipper – Time to ignite
Brick Slipper are one of my new discoveries. This is from their debut album which was released in November last year so I have only been listening to them for a few months but I really love them ! ! !. I love the mixtures of influences on this track. There is electro pop, and punk and even some Visual Kei J-rock influences, all mixed up, but it sounds really cohesive and original. I think they are really great band actually and the Album Brick Slipper is a great debut album.
Quite like this one, it’s very “80′s” in a way ( is that the sound of a MicroKorg I hear swooshing away ?) with that kind of jittery , nervous sound that was so popular in the era immediately after punk. It’s a “grower”, wasn’t sure at first listen but after a couple of goes it grew on me .
Pairubu - No Brain- Fighting Spirit.
One of Korea’s leading punk/ska bands, No Brain have been around for a while. Perhaps unsurprisingly this is a bit of a “graveled voiced shouter”. Some of their other stuff is a bit less “punk” , veering almost in Springsteenesque territory. Sung in Korean I have no idea what the song is about, of course, but the chorus is super catchy and it chugs along very nicely in a fashion that reminds me of the Blue Hearts and that’s always a good thing in my book.
I do not know what the song is about either as I also do not speak Korean, but do like these guys. I first knew No Brain when they released the Album Never Mind the Sex Pistols. Here’s the No Brain which was an album of covers of Sex Pistol tracks they made because they wanted to introduce the Sex Pistols to young Koreans, but in their style. Well I really admired their cheek for that actually ! ! ! You can hear that they are more influenced by Japanese punk than original UK or USA punk. I do really love this track ! ! ! I it is somehow familiar and new at the same time. I love it ! ! !
Sakura - Neon Bunny – Come A little Closer
Neon Bunny is actually a single person band. It is the solo project of Yoojin Lim who was previously the keyboard player in the indie band Black Skirts. This track is from the wonderful debut album Seoulight. She has a great voice and can sing a wide range of styles . I really like the retro 1970 decade disco feel and dance rhythm of this track very much. This is actually one of my favourite late night tracks ! ! ! The album was produced in the USA by Cliff Lin, but the two never met. They did everything over the internet ! ! ! (Just like Mr P and me ! ! !)
I say ! What ! Ding dong ! etc. Really didn’t think I was going to like this one at first but actually I really liked it. Her voice is very nice and the backing has a nice pared back feel. She does look very uncomfortable in that chair , though and the video looks like it may be the cheapest one every made ( cost $1.50, I reckon).
Pairubu - Shorty Cat-With The Punk
Not 100% sure of the title here ( Google Translate to the rescue) this is one from one of Korea’s longest running punk bands and is delightfully “frothy”. If you are not “na na na” -ing along with this one then I think you should give up on listening to music and take up knitting instead. Some may find the vocals a little squeaky , perchance, but, for me, this only adds to the charm.
I found the title for you Mr P ! ! ! I so like Shorty Cat ! ! ! They formed in 2003 and this track is from the 2007 album I Ain’t Be Controlled. They remind me a lot of Shonen Knife in the vocals, and the overall feel of them. There is also influences from Lolita 18 the Japanese girl punk group that maybe started the Asian girl punk band movement, back in 1989. As Mr P says, this is no bad thing ! ! ! It is really makes me want to dance and sing with it. I just love it ! ! !
Sakura - Vanilla Unity – Hey Monster
Vanilla Unity formed in 2004 and had good success but they split up in 2008. However, they reformed in 2010. I think during the time apart they matured musically and widened their influences. This was the single that they released on their reformation. I really like the more sophisticated arrangement on this track and it has a kind of pop rock feel which I like very much. I suppose this is the most classical indie track and very good example of the genre. Every thing you want from an indie track is there ! ! !
Yep, nothing wrong with this one. Smoothly done and quite sophisticated as Sakura says. I would quite happily listen to this one though the treated vocals may become a tad annoying over time.
Pairubu - Nonstop Body- Fuck shit up !
With apologies to the delicate of sensibilities for the title of this number ( I didn’t choose it). This is not just one of my favorite Korean songs, not just Asia but all time punk faves ( well, I’ve only had it about 6 months but I think it’s going to stay high in my affections). This has got everything I love about punk. It’s short. It’s loud. It’s rude. It’s snotty and it’s tuneful. I cannot recommend this one high enough. Love it, love it, love it.
Of course I do not really approve of bad language. . . . . but I do love this track ! ! ! Nonstop Body area three girl group from Seoul and formed in 2000. I actually thought they were guys when I first heard them as the singers voice is really very masculine but they are girls. They do have that simple direct and cheerful approach that I like in Punk. I do not know really anything about them except that this track came from their first album released in 2001 called “Oi Oi Oi”. I like the really nice rhythm and tune in this track and it makes me want to jump around and shout Oi!!! What more can you want from a punk track???
♪ ♫ ♪
Overall a fine selection, I’m sure you’ll agree. Korea is the country I know least about (musically), but will certainly try to hear more after listening to Sakura’s picks. As with China and Taiwan there are definite rumblings of a sleeping dragon awakening ( musically) and I , for one, welcome this.
I agree with Mr P ! ! ! Korea is a fascinating country and one of many contrasts and of course this shows in their music also. There is more and more alternative music coming from Korea now and the music scene is developing and changing really quickly. I think we will see some great things in the future ! ! !
We hope you have enjoyed the post and thank you for reading and listening to the tracks.
PS - We are going to China next week ! ! ! We hope you can join us ! ! !