ROUND EYE, Culture Shock Treatment
Were a sane review with reasonably working ears to write a spot-on review of the wild, percussive guitar, sax and vocal blasts and politically incisive bombast of Round Eye’s latest opus, the 15-tracker Culture Shock Treatment, it might read something like: @!!!!@%*Q%*%**&^+.$$#@!!!!!!!!!!!f****!!
While stopping to mention the brilliant sonic edges/touches and burst the seams of sanity but keep it short and sweet guidance of producer and legendary punk bassist Mike Watt, it might go on for a few pages of symbols as those ears adjust to the cool anarchy of this veteran experimental freak punk outfit, who (while never mentioning a last name in any promotional bio) have been blazing indie punk trails in their (non-native) hometown of Shanghai for years.
While boldly raging (risking their lives?) against their own (Chinese Communist) machine and that country’s long ingrained cultural mores – typified on the new collection on bursts like the title track, “Smokestack, “5000 Years” and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” - the five-piece band’s musical chaos serves an important higher purpose: bridging a wide gap between the Eastern and Western hemispheres of classic styled DIY punk.
The rebellious energy has caught on, as they’ve won “Best Local Band” from Shanghai’s City Weekend magazine two years in a row, played host to a wide range of likeminded Western acts and done videos with famed Chinese actresses. Like all punkers worth their weight in fiery expression, Round Eye’s blazing guitars (by James and lead singer Chachy), sax squeal (Mac) and drums (Jimmy Jack) are turned up so dominantly in the mix that Chachy’s screamo lyrics can’t always be discerned. That’s probably a safety thing considering lines like “I Don’t Give a F*** about the People’s Republic. . .the Communist Manifesto,” “Gotta keep the coming commie runnin’” and “Obey! Thank. . .Xi…No one gets out of here alive. . .Five thousand years. . .Bullshit!”
Amidst the thorny political commentary and tantalizingly rough edges, Round Eye graces us with a few unexpected outliers – the playful, bouncing surf guitar jam “Uomo Moderno” (sung/spoken all in crystal clear Italian!) and slowed down, old school 50’s styled (but divinely distorted) mid-tempo ballad “Red Crimes,” a romantic lament about forbidden love.