The metaphorical cat is away, so…..

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My partner in crime is, as I’m sure you know, away at the moment besporting herself on sunny beaches on a beautiful sub-tropical island.

I’m not, I’m stuck in the hills in the rain and murk ( as usual) with only a few straggly sheep and rustics for company.

So I thought I’d take some time and scribble some screed concerning a band I have grown to love over the past few months and which, I think, briefly reignited the “true Olmpyian flame of Punk”. Until they fell apart , of course, bickering and burned out

Let’s start with a bit of background ( “Do you have to ?” I hear you cry. “Yes, I do” I respond, churlishly).

I have become increasingly ..how shall we put this…despondent , yes, that’s a good word, despondent over the rewriting of punk “history” , mostly by them that weren’t there at the time  ( I’m referring here to the “first wave” of 76-77) but also by revisionist axe grinders who write books (BOOKS ! About punk ! Pah !) about it and over analyse the pudding.Over the years various bands have tried ( and in most cases I would say, failed) to recapture the “Spirit of ’76″ but , for me, have missed the mark. A certain “mythology”, if you will, has built up around bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols which would have been derided most vigorously by their contemporaries at the time.

The essence of punk, in it’s early days is , perhaps, best captured in the line from X-Ray Spex’s “Warrior in Woolworth’s”  - “He doesn’t need no history,he threw the past away”. That’s where “we” were coming from ( I like to think). A “Year 0″ kind of thing, even when the artifacts and attitudes of earlier strains of musical rebellion were purloined for punkish purposes they were adapted and twisted to fit the new creations of the day.

I don’t think it’s really possible to recreate those times, the whole social , political, economic and technological landscape is very different today. 24 hour television, computers, mobile phones, cars that don’t break down every 10 miles, all these things ( and more) mean that today’s disaffected, disenchanted and in need of disinfecting youths don’t “get” bored in the same way.

However, things are different in China. Rock music there is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s only 10 years of so since the country was effectively opened up to western influences ( at least for the masses, I suspect the top bods had always enjoyed a drop of Stella and a pasty) and the musical infrastructure has had to be built up virtually from scratch, especially in the “indie and punk” sector. The “kids”, in essence, as it was BITD in Britain, have had to do it for themselves.

Thus it is that a band crawled out from the slums of Peking,fueled by a love of the Dead Boys, Pistols, Ramones and beer ( mostly beer,actually) and fired with a deep sense of despondency and inertia that is to be admired. They called themselves Joyside 

It took 3 years for them to get their first album out ( Drunk is beautiful-2004) but it was certainly worth the wait. No other record has, for me, captured that feel that I recall ( dimly it must be said) of chaotic, indolent nihilism, the driving force of punk.

Tracks like “I want beer” “I’m lazy and wasting” and “I don’t care about your society” ( all featured below) speak of a group of young chaps alienated from the new, booming China and longing for ..well…nothing really !

There followed ( in 1995) a grand tour of China ( by train !) documented on the wonderful “Wasted Orient” video. We see the chaps in their squalid home, interviewed in toilets across the land, glorying in dissolution and, in one memorable moment, instructing us in Chinese “nouvelle cuisine du punque” ( Whiskey Noodles- Take some noodles, fry in wok, add whiskey et “Voila !”).

We see them play miniscule gigs to tiny audiences and eat some weird stuff but mostly we see them drink beer, lots of it and generally lark about in a way that is very reminiscent of those far off days of my youth.

Before the video was released original (Japanese) guitarist Yang Yang “left” the band and was replaced by Xin Shang who brought a new “musicality” to the band as shown by the track “My eyes pissed again” ( a kind of love song) featured below.

The band staggered ( literally) on until 2009 releasing every more “sophisticated” records ( Dong dong dong featured) before burning out, blaming difficulties within the music scene and general disillusionment.

Or have they….in the past couple of years new tracks have appeared on their “Douban” pages, so maybe the legend that is joyside continues to haunt the Chinese music scene.

I do hope so, they were, I think, rather special.

 


* I should add that as a responsible parent these days I no longer consider being a booze addled punk rocker to be a sensible career choice and would council anyone against following such a path.

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21 thoughts on “The metaphorical cat is away, so…..

  1. “Partner in crime ? ? ?”

    My Uncle is chief if police in Miyakojima (my home island) and my two cousins his assistants – do not you know ? ? ?

    This of course very useful when the police stop me when I am riding my motor cycle without a helmet on (can some one please design a cool motor cycle hemet).

    Joyside are wonderful and I really love them. I am at home now and so I am listening to much USA soul with the old hipster but also I am listening to muchTaiwanese pop with my mum and really I have forgotten how great the scene is in China and Taiwan just now.

    China is such an exciting place now for music ! ! ! There are now two really different sounds – the Shanghai sound and and the Beijing sound and the indie scene is really exciting.

    Mandarine is a great language for rock and pop. The rhythm of the language is natural for the rhythm of rock. Also I think it is a really romantic language like Italian and Spanish.

    Taiwan is more a mainstream scene I think, but Taiwanese pop is really great and there is a lot of fantastic romantic songs by taiwanese bands.

    This one makes me think of you Mr P ! ! !

    Vera Queen – Today It Is Raining

    • We love Vera ! I must admit that at first I wasn’t sure about her solo album but after a few plays I have really grown to love it.
      At the moment I’m on a bit of a Hong Kong kick, when you have time check out Pancakes and My Little Airport.
      I love the sound of Mandrin too, I think the nature of the language really suits singing. I’ll have to take your word about the romantic thing though. They could be singing their shopping lists for all I know.

      • NO ! ! ! because when you mention the weather in your mails you always say it is raining ! ! !

      • the words seem to fit this image more than the other work I’ve see from you. I actually think thats great. I feel this image works nlceiy of the one wit you sitting on the grass. If this is the direction you’re heading in with your work, can I just say OMG LOVE :). I think this shot is interesting because of the ambiguity of the person. I William thinks of this as a girl, but this could also be a man. Really the only evidence to this being a woman is the long hair, and lets face it I’m catching up to that length day by day. I have to agree with William in that spiritual should be a word as well. So screw 3 words give yourself a 4th or 5th or an artist statement :). Good Job!

  2. Actually was just thinking about your post and I think it is worth it to mention how even now being an artist and having something to say about the society you live in is not so easy in China.

    Bands like Joyside have a happy go lucky image but in real life their lives are not easy at all. In Japan and the west we take for granted so many things but freedom of expression is not universal.

    Cui Jian is one of my heros. In the student protests in Tiananmen Square he performed a concert and played the song A Piece Of Red Cloth and tied a red blind fold over his eyes as he played it. He was banned for ten years form performing for that.

    A Piece Of Red Cloth

    • Yes, the Wasted Orient film makes it quite clear how difficult it is to make a go of a musical career.
      There’s one scene in which a young lad gets badly cut while dancing at their gig and the Joyside guy’s say to the bar owner “Give him his money back, we don’t want his money” to which the bar owner replies “What money ?”

      I don’t think they’d be eating Whiskey Noodles if they were millionaires !

  3. I loved the vocal burp in the first song.

    Anyway, having listened to them all, I must say loved the set. They really have a wonderful sound, and I am not at all surprised that you love them so much, Pairubu. I am really, really struck. The music is very authoritative, there is such pride in their work, and it does touch my heart. Ten out of ten. When I can afford it, I would definitely invest.

    • Their first album is truly a masterpiece of punk. I’d put it in my top 10 of all time punk albums. The vocalist Bian Yuan may not be the strongest singer in the world but he’s full of character and nicely world weary ( which, strangely, I find most appealing)
      There are some good live clips on Youtube, total chaos at times. Which is a good thing.

  4. “A certain “mythology”, if you will, has built up around bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols”
    Very true , enough to nauseate even a Clash fan such as myself. When I got into them in about ’84 the Pistols mythology was pretty much established, but the Clash still seemed to be lauded and derided in equal measure, and people were quite happy to pick holes in their claims and image. Now they seem to have been elevated to a pedestal which makes them seem far less interesting than they seemed to my 14 year old self.
    Funnily enough now I hear people time and time again dismissing the Pistols as a boy band in contrast to the authenticity of the Clash. Such people have never heard of Bernie Rhodes and reading Marcus Gray’s book Last Gang In Town would be an eye opener.
    Joyside stuff is not bad at all – no denying that it has a fundamental punkness about it.

    • The Clash’s big mistake,IMHO, was getting Pearlman in to produce their second album. This didn’t play at all well with “purists” ( i.e. “nerks”) like me in the same way that the Damned getting Nick Mason in for their second didn’t also.
      It smacked of a retrograde step. Of course it worked, got them a whole new audience and paved the way for global superstardom, money and all the Mars Bars they could eat.

      For me the “essence du punque” was the poking a bony finger and laughing at anything that smacked of “establishment” or, as we called it back then “Grandadism”.

      • I well remember the day I bought The Clash’s second album. I listened to the first three tracks and was interrupted by a knock at the door. My mate had also bought a copy and, after playing it,he literally ran down the road to my house. Not to play it to me. He was hoping I would buy it off him because he hated it so much.

  5. By the way this seems as good a place as any to say that “Back To No Future” is not dead but has merely been slowed down by the baby and other such adult responsibilties (a bit like the UK punk scene itself in that respect).
    Expect more soon(ish)

  6. Great stuff all round. Prefer the early raucous shouty Joyside (isn’t that an integral feature of punk music?) to later more orderly stuff – are those harmonies I hear?

    Vera is nice, but Cui is something else. Significant music, indeed.

      • quite right too.

        Will try to get hold of a copy of that film too. It sounds more of a tour DVD than a full-on documentary about the difficulties of being a punk band under an oppressive regime, but if it’s anywhere near as good as the excellent “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” then it will be well worth watching

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