Let’s face it, Shanghai needs a good kick in the pants every once in a while. Thankfully, the French post-punk trio Papier Tigre was in town Saturday night, and they were more than happy to oblige.
Papier Tigre plays smart noise punk rock. Their music features complex rythmes, clever guitar riffs and some serious fuzz. The trio, Eric Pasquereau (vocals, guitar), Pierre-Antoine Parois (percussion, guitar), and Arthur de La Grandiere (drums), came to China by way of Nantes. The band is signed with the Chinese record label Wangba and this was their second tour of the Middle Kingdom. As I waited for the crowd to meander in late Saturday night while chatting with a Belgian sound engineer, I wondered who would come to the show. Veterans of the last Papier Tigre Tour de Chine or the word of mouth crowd, eager to for some pure punk energy?
After some sweet electronic tunes from MNO Show, the fellas slunk on stage with hunched shoulders, bolted down the snare drum, and then went straight for the jugular. The songs were raw and fun, with pounding drums and catchy licks betraying lyrics about insurance and cubical dwelling. It wasn’t hard for the crowd (mostly Papier Tigre newbs, according to my assesments) to warm up to the band, bobbing their heads after the first drum roll. Soon enough the wild dancing started, first with the happy hipster chick up front, then the interested folk in the middle. But about two thirds of the way through the set the audience lost any pretense of chill and started to thrash. And it didn’t hurt that LOgO’s sound system finally came through. We heard serpentine riffs and gutteral vocals as good as they’ve ever sounded before. The band seemed to be inspired by the audience’s enthusiasm because they kept it coming fast and hard for the rest of the set.
Papier Tigre fired off song after song, keeping any audience interaction to a minimum (I think they did say “Hello” once). I would have appreciated a little more from them, veterans of the Chinese rock circuit as they are. Between songs there was no banter, only a twiddling of knobs and some passing of beer bottles between band members. It hurt the momentum of the show in the beginning, when the audience would fall into a head nodding groove and then stop dead for 90 seconds.
The rock must’ve tired the guys out (well, that and the gig they had played in Nanjing earlier in the day) because they cut the show short and skipped the encore. I was disapointed because the audience had just fallen into a great groove with the band and I think we all could have used a little more unbridled, fun rock before the night was through.
In an interview with your personal heroes at layabozi.com, vocalist/guitarist Eric Pasterneau described the band’s ethos: “[Our new album] The Beginning and End of Now is an album based on immediacy and the lack of reflexion in the modern era. Going faster, getting bigger, and making more is not a good thing if you have no room to think.” Beneath the complex, driving beats and blaring guitar riffs, Papier Tigre reveals a thoughful musical treatment of modern life.
And it’s fun to dance to.