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China Pop 2007

Look Directly Into the Sun


Ever wonder what hip-hop in Mandarin sounds like? How about punk from Beijing? Hint: Not all that different from what we’ve got going on here at home.

Yet there’s a feeling of discovery on this scattered compilation from former PiL and Pigface drummer Martin Atkins, which documents a little bit of everything he found during a 2006 journey into China’s underground music scene.

The feeling is epitomized with a few live recordings from D-22, described in the liner notes as a CBGB-type club in downtown Beijing. The muffled crowd noise, reckless vocals and fuzzy recordings give Joyside’s surf rock “Dang” and Hang on the Box’s grrl-punk “Shang Hai” the same feel as a bootleg from the next maybe somebody playing the Badlander.

And they really do sound familiar because almost everyone on China Pop is singing in English and mimicking something already done a dozen times over in London, New York or Missoula. It’s disorienting to hear China MC Brothers, for instance, sound like Ill Communication-era Beastie Boys on “Jai Jung.”  

There are no politics here, and not even a hint of small world irony. These 18 bands are shuffled and dealt like an eager teenager’s latest and greatest mix tape, and the naïve enthusiasm is infectious. (Skylar Browning)

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