Article By Dave Wright & Hector Hererra
Loving music is a full time occupation. There is always something new coming out and so much back catalog to get through that it can be overwhelming. So many truly excellent albums go unenjoyed because of this. China has a vast and impressive history in the field, but it can be difficult as a newcomer to know where to begin. So, without making any claims about these being the best or attempting to rank them, we would like to share a few albums with you as well as our personal favorite track on each. Consider them jumping off points, bands that can lead you to others as you search for your favorite artists, albums and styles
This album would fit right in with everything coming out of Seattle during the Golden Age of Grunge. The first song opens gently with a progressive melody that slowly crescendos into heavy riffs, attitude and screaming vocals before concluding with the sweet sound of a guzheng. That gives you an idea of where the album is headed, of what it is meant to be, and once the next track’s guitar begins you’ll be hooked on teenage angst one more time. 冷血动物 will lead you to believe that Generation X is in for a comeback, Chinese style.
是谁把我带到了这里 (Track 8)
Hector’s pick: 阿诗玛 (Track 2)
Celebrate will transport you straight to sunny Sanya. From the first four notes of the first song on, there is a positive energy that pervades the whole effort. Spiced with the post-rock guitar of Xi’an’s own Yang Shuai this EP brought the band its mainstream appeal while maintaining their alternative roots. While hard to classify, Celebrate contains elements of everything from garage rock to new wave so there should be something here for everyone to enjoy.
Dave’s pick: Horse (Track 4)
Hector’s pick: Celebrate (Track 1)
Many bands attempt to combine Western rock and traditional Chinese instrumentation, but 二手玫瑰 absolutely nailed it with this album and created the perfect marriage between the two styles. On first listen, the number of changes may overwhelm but once you hear the segue from a marching rhythm to an amorphous near-acapella intermission and back to the main riff in the first song you are going to want to finish this album. These are musicians at the peak of their ability who dared to mix distorted guitars, jungle rhythms and any number of classical Chinese instruments. Despite its complex composition, 一枝独秀 is a more than accessible record.
Dave’s pick: 粘人 (Track 8)
Hector’s pick: 仙儿 (Track 2)
The first song of this album will strike you as a schizophrenic cacophony which, in all honesty, is probably exactly what lead singer Heyong wanted. 垃圾场 is a wasteland of musical styles and experimentation that will catch your ear. The key to this album is going the distance; don’t skip anything! You’ll never know what this madman has in store for you next, between and within every track. Metal, Ballads, funk and even carnival-like tunes are all featured in this garbage dump.
Dave’s pick: 姑娘漂亮 (Track 2)
Hector’s pick: 幽灵 (Track 9)
We couldn’t compile a list of Chinese albums without including Cuijian, the godfather of Mainland rock. Released in 1989, this album has undoubtedly influenced every band on this list. The songs range from rocky funk to melodic ballads and while it admittedly sounds a bit dated at times, all the elements of a classic rock album are there. Some of the tracks will get your toe tapping, some will make you embrace your better half and some will simply make you reminisce on simpler times when rock was all about having fun.
新长征路上的摇滚 (Track 1)
Hector’s pick: 让我睡个好觉 (Track 3)
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Dave and Hector are two of Xi’an’s finest musicians and the first and only cool people to ever play bass.