Carsick Cars released their first album in 2007. Produced by Yang Haisong, physician whose band P.K.14 has been the most influential band for the generation of Chinese musicians who followed, buy almost overnight the wildly energetic self-titled album became the most celebrated representative of the young Beijing musicians and bands who, emerging mainly from Beijing’s most famous music club, D-22, exploded onto the scene in 2005. Carsick Cars was one of the leaders of this of bands who, joining together under the banner of “No Beijing”, brought a level of self-confidence, aggressive experimentation, and youthful determination which catapulted the Beijing new music scene into Asia’s most important and one of the best in the world. Carsick Cars’ performances during that time are remembered today for the excitement and sense of possibility they brought, and the most famous song from the album, “Zhongnanhai”, has become the anthem of the Beijing underground. To this day it is the most copied song among hopeful young Chinese musicians.
Two years later the band released their second album, the brooding, discordant and much darker You Can Listen, You Can Talk, produced by legendary New York musician and producer Wharton Tiers. The album sold poorly at first, surprising an audience that expected the brilliant youthful gyrations that characterized their first album. Over time, however, as audiences became more familiar with the growing maturity of the band, interest in the second album surged and today it sells almost as well as the first and has probably had a greater influence on younger Chinese musicians.
With all three members of the band involved in extensive touring and several side projects, it has been a long wait for the third album, but in April 2013 the band went to New York to work with Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom and The Clean’s Hamish Kilgour to produce 3, whose official release is planned for February 28. Once again the album is going to surprise the many Chinese and foreign fans of Carsick Cars, not least because of the beautiful covert art designed by well-known Beijing/California artist (and poker buddy) Guo Hongwei.
For the new album, songwriter Shouwang has jettisoned the hard riffs of his earlier style to create sophisticated, shimmering songs, still based on his trademark drones and deceptive rhythms, and showcasing more than ever the extraordinary guitar playing that has characterized all his music. Like both of his previous albums, the music rests on Shouwang’s intense, pop-inflected song melodies, which he and bassist He Fan and drummer Sun Heting, both of whom joined the band in 2011, tear apart in music that veers from repetitive, and intricate drones to complex mood shifts.
An early online song released from the album shot almost immediately to #1 on Douban, the leading Chinese online site for music, and it is pretty clear that this album, probably the most sophisticated the band has yet put out, will also be the most accessible and loved of their work to date. With each album showing a different level of maturity and skill, 3 is almost certain to be remembered as one of the most important Chinese recordings of this decade and will point to the new directions and further rapid development of China’s most influential underground band.