Carsick Cars Rocking in the Free World Out of China
Sonic Indie Band from Beijing Tours the West
Sometimes you find something when you aren’t looking for it. That’s how I discovered Carsick Cars, an incredible trio from mainland China that surely does not fit the mold. As an early riser I often tune into WKCR 89.9 FM’s Saturday pre-sunrise program Sounds of China that airs until 8:00 am, and showcases contemporary music from China. The show usually plays classical, pop, Chinese opera, and modern composers from China, most of which are super mellow. I was impressed with the two broadcasts the show featured of Carsick Cars, a noise band that left me with a hankering to hear more.
I likened them to Sonic Youth and composer Glenn Branca, and as I sought out the group’s material and I found out that Carsick Cars played Vienna and Prague with Sonic Youth in 2007. There are many similarities between Carsick Cars and Sonic Youth: Carsick Cars is a trio and has a compact sound whereas Sonic Youth is a quartet and has a bigger sound (two guitars as opposed to Carsick Cars’ one guitar. Sonic Youth also has the addition of female vocalist Kim Gordon who added extra counterpoint and texture to the band’s vocals). I am also willing to bet that Carsick Cars, like Sonic Youth, uses unorthodox guitar tunings to keep their sound interesting. You could say Carsick Cars is the Smart Car of noise bands.
Carsick Cars second album, You Can Listen You Can Talk from 2009 has more English language tracks like the title track “You Can Listen You Can Talk.” On this the vocal styling remind me a bit of Devo. Do you remember “Beautiful World?” They also have a release that is only available on cassette, “She Will Wait” b/w “Could You Be There”. Released around 2011 and on cassette? That might be a good interview question.
Carsick Cars has great energy live. These tunes have a driving beat: machine music with a touch of angst. I am not trying to put Carsick Cars in Sonic Youth’s shadow, they have their own signature characteristics but much of the tone and texture on this live album, and I mean this as a compliment, is much like Sonic Youth’s premier LP Sonic Youth. “Burning Spear” from that album is a good snapshot of what Live @D22 is about.
Carsick Cars most recent album, 3 from 2014, has even more English language tracks such as “The Shelter Song,” “15 Minutes Older” and “She Will Wait”. I was impressed with their lyrical content,
“I remember nothing but a shadow, she will wait,” is a good line and these words have a subtlety about them that are formidable and could give some American and UK bands a run for their money. I couldn’t get “The Shelter Song” out of my head after I heard it on WKCR.
Carsick Cars do a lot of touring. When I looked at their concert schedule they were booked almost everyday of the week. In May they will be playing different venues in the UK. I haven’t heard anything about any new material but I am sure they are working on something to top what they already have out. Keep your eye out for them. They quickly became one of my favorite new bands.