Xiao Pengke’s debut album was nothing I expected from a singer I have never heard before. Better known for being the keyboard player and singer for, Boys On Ropes, Xiao Pengke blends a variety of punkish lyrics with non-punk guitar styling. It is one of the first albums released on Andy Best and Super Sophia’s new record label 区. Along with the help of music producer Adam Gaensler, they have put out something uniquely good.
China and its lack of rigid pre-determined music categories seem to keep giving rise to these untraditional musical styles. It is my favorite thing about the Chinese music scene and it comes through on, Little Punk’s debut album, Hey Guy, You Are Big Time Alright. The first track opens with a sound that hints at an upcoming hard punk rock line, only to back off in an unexpected turn. The first time I listened to the album I had no idea what to make of that. It took me several listens through the album to figure it all out. It’s a strange blend because the vocals and lyrics are of a punk nature. The more and more I listened to the 7-track EP, the more confused I got. I just couldn’t seem to quite classify her sound. Part of me wants to say she sounds like a sweeter version of Brody Dalle with the distorted guitar styling of Buddy Holly. However, that does them no justice.
From the opening of the first track, Cuties, the album sucks you in and gets you anticipating for what is coming next. The lyrics are the kind of self-deprecating punk lyrics that make you want to rock out. Lines like “I think I’m a maniac, I think I’m a psycho, I should hate myself again” make for something that many people can relate to when they have dreams of their own cuties. Each of the tracks after follows with similarly great lyrical finesse. If there is one thing that I absolutely love about, Little Punk, it’s her lyrical prowess.
Guitar on the album is played by Shanghai music blogger Andy Best. His talent as a musician really comes through. His ability to contrast and compliment the punk style lyrics all at once is what makes the album truly come together. The best thing he does is that he keeps it simple. Punk originated from people who knew 3 chords and the lyrics often matched. With a good punk lyricist, like Xiao Pengke, it’s only appropriate that Andy keeps most songs simple with the slight hints of talent far beyond what he is actually playing.
The thing that misses for me is the overall feel. There is a bit of disconnect in the lyrics and passion of the guitar. It feels more like an attempt at spoken word punk poetry with some guitar in the background. Maybe its just because I keep thinking of it as punk. It could just be that my personal expectations are limiting me. I don’t think I have ever seen or heard a punk band with similar styling. That’s something usually reserved for folk artists and it keeps me second guessing the music itself. Maybe that’s just it, she’s not punk rock, she’s not folk rock, and she’s punk folk rock.
All that said, I can’t wait for her to come to Beijing so I can go check her out live. I think this is one of these mash-ups of the Chinese music scene that is probably best experienced live. Would I have bought the album, probably not, but has the free album made it so that I would want to see here live, definitely. Check her out and let me know what you think.