China and other developing countries are a hot bed for political and cultural strife. Music is a key way for the masses to express their sentiments and connect with others. This is the power behind punk. Punk relies on anti-establishmentarianism to fuel its music, fans, discussions, and actions to change. The west, however, has changed. We moved on from flower power, to glam rock, to punk, to pop. Even punk is now pop. Mohawks, tattoos, piercings, and tattered clothing are the normal mainstream cash culture. Punk in the way the west gave birth to it is dead, its illness started in the mid 90’s with the record companies exploiting punk and the creation of US shopping mall staple Hot Topic. It finally died the day the CBGB’s in NYC closed its doors. In China and the east though it is arising like a phoenix from the ashes. In this battle ground of western pop, j-pop, and anti-establishmentarianism it is no wonder that punk can be anything from cool to down with the government to a serenade to Hello Kitty and remain true to the original attitude behind punk. No wonder so many punk bands from the west, who no longer have much to really fight for, come to China. Well that’s at least my summarized opinion and disclaimer for what is to follow.
There are many of us out there who love the sounds and energy of old school punk rock. Riots bring that same sound to us on this album. Formerly known as Goldcrush, European punk rockers are now touring the world and bringing their new self-titled album on tour to China.
During my first listen many of my favorite old punk rockers came to mind, however, The Misfits are a clear sound influence to my ears, but you will hear some Ramones and Sex Pistols as well; basically expect to hear the genesis of true punk. The tracks on the album are rhythmically snare driven following along with a gritty bass line. Mix that in with the coarse vocals and simple cord progressions it’s your standard fare old school punk. A listen to any of the tracks will display this, but the second track “Oslo City”, is the easiest to listen to and understand what I mean.
I had to take a step back when listening to the Riots. I listened to it as if it was an album now, comparing it to all my favorites. That was my mistake. Riots aren’t supposed to be listened to in a way that makes you remember your favorite old bands. Instead try to give them a listen imagining this record back in the late 70’s. That’s when this record makes sense. The origins of punk were supposed to be simple and readily easy to play by anybody. Punk to begin with was for those who couldn’t play music, didn’t connect with the mainstream at the time, and wanted their voices heard. In 1979 English fanzine Sideburns published an illustration of three chords captioned, “ This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band.” Punk rock and everything that followed from punk is based on this early cornerstone.
For about six months, Riots used a drum machine instead of a drummer. That’s not really too punk. Seems almost modern and new wave like. However, many of the lyrics presented throughout the album speak back to simpler days of fighting for a cause. From anti-capitalistic sentiments to reckless drug use to general youth ignorance the Riots make an effort to get people to excited to change their lifestyles and expand their minds and views from beyond their basal desires. Just give “We’re All Slaves”, “Factory”, “Dead Generation”, and I don’t want you around and you will hear their message of social change. Their message of change may not be the same messages as punk from years past, but it is still a call to the masses to pick up and ask for change, even if some of the changes are related to their own lives. I guess that in its own way is still punk. Maybe that’s the new western style, self-help punk.
Modern day punk tends to go either too pop or too complicated in most cases. Riots have gone back to that old school punk sound. So if you want to rock out to some old school sounds from a band that is full of people still alive and are about to tour China and will be putting out more albums in the future. As far as old school punk goes Riots have put out an album that’s sound could easily slide into the 70’s and 80’s punk scenes.
Come see Riots this Saturday to our 4th Anniversary concert at YuyinTang. If you like old school punk, they are doing it how it used to be done before shit went pop.