The Chinese Stars
A Rare Sensation
s time progresses, I inevitably grow increasingly jaded, and like many before me, I realize that talent bears nominal import on the artistic success of a band. But what factors hinder the accomplishment of a promising band’s most critical release? Ignorance of past assets? Pressure from critics? Lack of time? Indecision?
It’s difficult to know, but at least a couple of these pressures must have been weighing down on The Chinese Stars’ shoulders this past year, because A Rare Sensation is the most disappointing debut LP since TV on the Radio’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes.
To be sure, A Rare Sensation doesn’t fail in any respect, and can comfortably stand aside most other releases of its posture, but when judged against the balls-out brilliance of the Turbo Mattress EP, this is no more than the cool-down walk after the fucking craziest marathon in the world.
You see, Turbo Mattress’s five songs erupted, side-winded, stabbed, and raced at octane speed over their fifteen-minute span, while A Rare Sensation’s nine tracks lack the energy for detours, struggling to breathe the same 1-2-3-4s for a tedious half-hour.
This doesn’t necessarily ring true about the individual songs. As opener "Cheap City Halo" skitters into being, The Chinese Stars are at their finest, Vieria's jagged guitar transcending even its finest moments on Turbo Mattress, Paul's reliable drawl spewing out typically diseased abstractions, while Kureck and Pelletier maintain a steady groove.
As the album progresses, though, it becomes apparent that one plus one plus one only goes so far, and the band's interminably consistent approach spreads increasingly thin. Moreover, even the individual songs become tedious, and one begins to wait for specific moments, most commonly a stellar riff from Vieria's seemingly bottomless repertoire.
What's worse, the band's distinguishing traits approach self-parody, especially as Eric Paul continues to romanticize filth and degradation until his words are little more than grating affectations. By the time he intones "Her affection is just like getting the death card / And I keep taking the necessary pills / Because anti-depressants make me love her" on the closer, one can only groan at the tangible effort expended to smear even more grit atop the mountain already built throughout the album’s length.
So why are The Chinese Stars pigeonholing themselves when they have the talent to expand this so-called "punk you can dance to" beyond recognition? Well, the trendy genre tempts, critics whine, and there is always more time available for the first EP than the subsequent LP. But listening to A Rare Sensation, one mostly senses that it was simply easier to aim to produce a good dance-punk album than to break any ground elsewhere. Sadly, the lack of effort shows, and although this is a good dance-punk album, it’s nothing more.
Reviewed by: Kareem Estefan
Reviewed on: 2004-07-21