Layabozi

The Reincarnation of the Monkees

I recently caught a show from Life Journey, which hails from Liuzhou in Guangxi province, at YuYinTang on May 15th. The audience was primarily composed of female university students hopping up and down, singing along to the lyrics, and pumping their arms in the air. It was quite a scene, everyone swaying and screaming. I had the feeling that I was at a Beatle’s concert. I kept imagining that the five handsome manboys on stage were none other than the Eastern-version of the Monkees.

The bespectacled girls shouted for an encore at the end of Life Journey’s set while the lanky college boys and occasional foreigner looked on in grinning amazement.

This was a great show. It had that energy that pulsates with giddiness. It wasn’t heated sexuality, which is what a lot of Western “cute” boy bands offer, but, instead, more like a bubbly dreamy date with the band. Lead singer and guitarist Yann flirted with the audience, he snapped a few photographs during an instrumental section and slung a red electric guitar over his shoulder and joined in for a solo while keyboardist oldbanana (that’s his name) pulled a couple of girls and a guy onto the stage and began jumping with them.

The spotlight flickered as it switched over to guitarist Mali or bassist Paul Chu and finally landed on the vigorous drumming of David Duan.

In between songs, Yann and his wingman Mali would exchange little repartees to the absolute delight of the audience. I actually saw a girl swoon when Chu, Yann and Mali each swept the hair from their foreheads simultaneously.

After the encore, the girls clamored to the little table by the entrance where Life Journey’s first self-titled CD and new 4-track EP were up for sell. The problem was that there were very limited amounts.  I counted 12 CDs available. The girls were packed against each other waving money over one another’s shoulders. It was like they were trying to jam themselves into a metro during rush hour.

I managed to work my way to the front and snagged a copy of the band’s debut album. I probably could have sold it for quadruple its value then and there, but I restrained myself.

It begins with the sound of a car’s engine starting, and then we start driving.

The neon lights pass by. The window is cracked and a cool wind comes through. No particular destination in mind.

One minute and thirty seconds into the third track, I was almost in love. The tracks continue to blend one into next with a simple fluidity throughout the albums 12 songs. The lyrics range from gibberish (Ba balabalabala Ba) and Chinese to English and French. Life Journey offers us danceable driving rhythms and lovingly simple acoustic ballads. Why haven’t I heard of them before? They’re virtually ready for Western radio.

My favorite track on the album is the eight-and-a-half-minute long “Dao Tian Jian,” which demonstrates the band’s Wilco influence, while the last track of the album, “Lonely Day,” hearkens back to the sounds of the 1960s with its gentle hand drum rhythm and simple melody.

Life Journey is great to listen to, but, for a straight male, it might become a little strange to listen to alone. Especially once you’ve seen them live and find yourself blushing along with the girls.

It’s bands like this, who give us decidedly original music, that demonstrate where music—in this sometimes backwards country—is heading.

Life Journey’s albums were released on Beijing-based Modern Sky Records and the band recently played at the Strawberry Music Festival. Find more information on the band at www.neocha.com/thelifejourney.

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