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.