In the summer of 2005 I was in Beijing for John Coates’s 60th birthday conference. Mrs. Tom Scocca, then and now a Beijing expat, wrote me one afternoon and asked me if I wanted to go to a punk rock show.
I always want to go to a punk rock show!
I met Mrs. TS in the neighborhood of Beijing University. There was a record store next door; I managed gesturally to convey to the salesman that I wanted to buy some CDs, but to express any more exactly what I wanted was impossible, especially since I had no idea exactly what I wanted. The salesman solved the problem by holding up CDs, one by one, and identifying their English-language counterparts: “Chinese U2.” “Chinese The Cure.” “Chinese R.E.M.” Chinese R.E.M. sounded great, so I bought the PK 14 album thus identified: not at all like R.E.M., it turns out, but dreamy, loud, and worthwhile.
The punk rock show: a small audience, about half Chinese and half Western, watched a sequence of noisy indie rock acts. The best single moment was provided by the Angry Jerks, from Nanjing, who covered “You Think You’re A Man” with the appropriate fervency. (That is to say, a lot of fervency.) But the standout band was Carsick Cars, who opened with a buzzed-out cover of “Sunday Morning” that only gradually became recognizable — and then became unrecognizable again. They closed with a great, pounding shouty track, “Zhong Nan Hai.”
And now I get this month’s Paste, and Carsick Cars are the lead story! Apparently they’re now the kings of Beijindie. And “Zhong Nan Hai” is their signature number. Here they are, playing it:
If you like that, there’s more Carsick Cars streaming here. These days they sound a little less noise, a little more like The Clean. Even better!
What about the Chinese Tindersticks? Or the Chinese Scott Walker?
I like! You are a jetsetting hipster.