The Velvet Underground was the official band of Andy Warhol and The Factory, but it was 80’s bands like Kraftwerk and Talking Heads that really captured his thing of being so superficial that it’s impossible to believe it’s entirely without irony, but at the same time strenuously insisting that it’s not irony. The result is a beguiling combination of the despair of untethered, undirected irony, and the naive pleasure of simple rhythms and simple melodies. I guess before you kicked this song over to me I never mentioned my 80s cover band wedding gig from the fall and how Kraftwerk’s “Das Model” was my favorite tune we did. I had a love/hate relationship with the fucking Rick Astley song and its preposterous bass line, but with “Das Model” it was all love. With “Autobahn,” though, you have me stumped. No matter how hard I try I can’t pretend not to be bored stupid by this song. The craft that went into the timbres of the synths and the use of stereo space is apparent, and by trying to pay attention mostly to that I could have kept the desire to strangle myself out of the front of my mind for eight, ten, maybe even twelve minutes, but over twenty-two minutes? The most tragic part is the false ending at about 15:51, where the poison gas clears only to reveal an out-of-tune vocal break down? That’s just cruel. All the same, it clearly wasn’t something that wasn’t just dashed off, and even as I hate it and long to put on something stimulating to clear my mind (luckily Kurt Rosenwinkel comes after Kraftwerk in my iTunes) there is something captivating about it, like, dare I say it, a car wreck. You never know if the in the next moment you are going to think “hmm, that was kind of nice,” or shake your fists at the heavens and cry “Noooooo!!!!! Not that cursed melody.”
The same cannot be said of the track I pass to you, Marcela. To these ears there is nothing suggesting the practice of a well-learned craft and nothing at all captivating in Aaron Kwok’s “I Am Aaron Kwok,” though his voice sounds okay. Actually, I am sort of fascinated by the musical illogic in so much Chinese pop. The bass line in this tune, for example, sounds like it was written by a tone-deaf four-year-old. Might that be an instance of differing musical approaches East and West? I don’t know, but I am warm and cozy in the knowledge that you will find his voice disgustingly lacking in masculinity and that the abs and pecs on display will somehow leave you unmoved.
It’s kind of cheating, because you have already mentioned the suicide-inducing quality of this particular artist, but you also have been resisting writing the first Search for the Good Chinese Pop Song column on him, and this is a good way to give you no option of refusal.