After a 5 year hiatus and a lineup change, China’s best indie rock band is back and better than ever. Carsick Cars have returned with a new rhythm section, a U.S. tour, and their long-awaited 3rd full-length album, simply titled 3.
3 was well worth the wait. Singer/Guitarist Zhang Shouwang has managed to retain the same energy the band had in their early days, and with the help of bassist He Fan & drummer Sun Heting, they’ve put that energy into what is easily their best album to date.
The bouncy “Wild Grass” opens the digital version of the album and ushers in the band’s return to catchy, guitar-driven rock. With so much recycled pop music out there, it’s great to hear a band that still sounds fresh after a few years out of the music scene.
Drawing more from their New York No Wave influence is the instrumental track “The Best VPN So Far”. The band’s love of dissonance shows in this one, but the song still remains a brilliantly noisy yet cohesive composition.
“15 Minutes Older” has the ability to become an instant indie rock hit. Play it loud and you’ll be singing along by the time the chorus hits.
Jagged, almost Kraut-rock sounding guitars introduce the next track “Reaching The Light”. The driving bass line is like something out of a Stereolab tune, it keeps your head bobbing while Zhang’s guitar riffs get more modulated and effected as the song comes to a climax.
The intricate but delicate guitar harmonics provide a backdrop for the track “Midnight Driver” which eventually explodes into a mess of fuzz and drums. Carsick Cars are no strangers to guitar noise, but they still manage to keep things poppy and easy to digest.
“Shelter Song” shows off some of the band’s softer side. It brings with it a similar vibe as some of the quieter, more droning Sonic Youth songs like “Cotton Crown”. The track is a great change of pace from the more raucous parts of the album.
The anthemic sound of “Could You Be There” makes it another standout on the album. It brings back those heavenly harmonic guitar parts that build and build until a brilliant power pop chorus kicks in.
“512” brings back the wailing guitar noise you know and love from these guys and is one of the best “rockers” on the album.
While it was originally released on the bands December 2013 EP The Other 3, “She Will Wait” has also found a home near the end of the actual 3 and is a welcomed addition to the album. It’s quickly become one of my all time favorites.
Closing out the album is the slightly more electronic, droning, yet energetic “White Song”. During this nearly 7 minute long drone rock piece, Zhang shows off his newly acquired synthesizer skills and the band jams freely.
Produced by Sonic Boom aka Peter Kember (of Spectrum & Spacemen 3 notoriety) & Hamish Kilgour (a founding member of New Zealand band The Clean), it’s the band’s most polished and cohesive album so far.
While they take much of their influence from the early ’90s indie and alternative rock scenes, their music never seems to sound dated. This album comes highly recommended if you like powerful indie rock that has a foundation of great songwriting and musicianship behind it.
Stream the entire album on bandcamp via the band’s record label, Maybe Mars, and order a copy on CD or Vinyl while you’re there. To celebrate this fantastic new release, the band has hit the road on a spring tour spanning the most of the US and Canada. We’ll be on hand at The Burlington Bar when they make their stop in Chicago next Friday.
UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
March 26th Winnipeg, Canada – West End Cultural Centre
March 27th Minneapolis, MN – Cause
March 28th Chicago, IL – The Burlington Bar
March 30th Toronto, Canada – Izakaya Sushi House