The Lions of Puxi are a popular and high profile reggae band on a mission: escape from the Shanghai jazz ghetto. They’ve played at Yugong Yishan and Dream Factory, been featured on ICS and adverts in taxis, performed at the JZ Music Festival, and now they have their first CD out.
It’s a nice sounding one, clean and well produced, and the songs are good. The Lions of Puxi have a lot of talent. I have a special soft spot for bassist Alain and drummer Jhonny, who I think are one of the few really great drum-bass duos in Shanghai, and definitely the best for reggae. (Full disclosure: I play with Jhonny every Wednesday.) Vlad (guitar), Jason (keys), and Quentin (saxophone) sound good too and fit the band, if without the deep reggaeness of Jhonny and Alain. The horn section is expanded on this album (as it was at the JZ festival) with the addition of Hu Danfeng on trumpet and Hu Qingwen on trombone. The extra horns add spice and hopefully the Hus will continue to be involved when possible.
Gilbert and Gauthier sharing vocal duties is another good balance, with the former handling more of the proper singing and the latter rapping and singing in French, Chinese, Shanghainese, and English, and generally charming the crowd. It’s a nice partnership that seems unmarred by ego clashes and the contrast sets off their different talents and keeps everything extra fresh.
The first track, “Do You Puxi” is the best on the album. The bass bubbles through the chorus, getting punchier as it builds into the chorus, and the guitar-bass unison break going into the chorus is super tasty, as are the horn punches that go into the French rap-breakdown. Most of the tunes are pretty up-tempo, with my next favorite “Jacqueline” at ska speed. It’s a good choice for this band because they lose some energy in the eddies of the slower reggae beat.
This band puts on a great live show and that’s what they’re really about. It’s a very clean and professional sounding CD but it’s also very short. At six songs and just under 23 minutes it’s really an EP, and that means basically a well-produced demo that you can buy. I like the band and I love the fact that they’re playing places like Dream Factory and Mao Livehouse, really going for it and not being satisfied being a local band that plays once a week at JZ or Anar. This disc will help in the pursuit of that goal, but as a work in itself it’s a little thin. If it were another Shanghai band I hadn’t heard of who had put out this album, I would probably be excited and impressed, but I think this band is better than this CD, despite its high production value and some good songs.