Sunday, April 6, 2008

Listening to the east

Over the past two months I think I've listened to more Asian rock'n'roll than in the previous 45 years combined. I highly, highly, highly recommend the following:

Look Directly into the Sun is a collection of Beijing punk bands, recorded last year by Martin Atkins, who fellow oldtimers will remember as the drummer in the original PiL lineup. This magnificent compilation of punk, pop, and rock'n'roll bands is the sound of a revolution about to happen. It feels like a London 1977 roundup. No matter the culture, the political system, or the economic framework, young people everywhere wanna scream and some of 'em do it brilliantly. Like the ones here.

Friend, colleague, and esteemed Sandinista Project contributor Jim Duffy alerted me a while back to Dengue Fever, a California band that started out specializing in covers of Cambodian rock'n'roll of the early '70s and has subsequently delivered a number of tough garage rockers that extend the tradition. I wanted to hear what inspired this inspired band so I've picked up a number of CD compilations of the original performers, stirring and alive, before the Khmer Rouge got their hands on them. Some of the selections on these sets may not be quite legit -- I doubt that synthesizers and syndrums were available in pre-Pol Pot Phnom Penh -- but some of the performers here, like Sinn Sisamouth, are secret giants most American rock'n'roll fans have never heard of, let alone heard. Jewels & Binoculars readers, can you direct me to your favorite Cambodian rockers? If you're new to the band Dengue Fever, any of their three full-length sets -- Dengue Fever, Escape from Dragon House, and Venus on Earth -- offer exhilarating ways in.



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