When I was a kid, I always wanted a Chinese star (at the time I called them ninja stars). After countless hours of playing Shinobi and watching too many old kung-fu flicks, I had to have one. Of course the problem always arose as to where to buy one without my parents finding out. Before the invent of the internet, a young perspective troublemaker had to find other means of obtaining the forbidden. Soldier of Fortune had them for mail order in the back of the magazine next to the stun guns and brass knuckles, but I was too impatient and too young to have the necessary skills needed to place an order.
Then finally, on a family trip to an Indian reservation in North Carolina, I found them. Nestled in a brown wicker basket on the bottom shelf of the gift stores’ many racks of useless items sat a plethora of multi shaped dull black Chinese throwing stars. I panicked. What to do? Would the clerk let me buy them? Could I con my grandmother into getting one for me? There was only one option. I slowly surveyed the situation, made sure no one was looking, and slipped one carefully into my pocket. The theft had gone unnoticed, and I kept the treasure hidden until we returned home. At the first chance I had I snuck into the woods, found a suitable target, and launched my deadly weapon. My technique was lacking I guess, and the flat metal object launched sideways into the depths of an impenetrable mass of prickly brush. Man, I sure would have done some damage had I a chance to perfect my skills. Instead I guess I’ll just let the aptly named band from Providence, Rhode Island take the space I was destined to fill.
From the demise of seminal noise/chaos band Arab On Radar emerges the equally disturbing but more groove based Chinese Stars. The band features two former AOR members, Mr. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mr. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, now going by their given names, Eric Paul and Craig Kurcek, on vocals and drums respectively. Filling out the lineup are former Six Finger Satellite member Rick Pelletier on bass, and “the mysterious Paul Vieria” on guitar. The unmistakable vocals of Paul and the squealing guitar are bound to draw comparisons to AOR, but fact is The Chinese Stars give the listener more chances to shake her hips than Arab ever did.
On “A Rare Sensation”, the Chinese Stars have successfully crafted their own sound, out from beneath the imposing umbrella of their former bands. This is essentially a dance record for the Arkham Asylum crowd. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t your run of the mill dance-punk, Gang of Four rip-off; the Chinese Stars are too fucked up to torture you with repetition. Simple, dancey beats and a driving disco bass lay the foundation for the up tempo groove of the band, while screechy, single-string guitar work and the occasional synth round out the instrumentation. The rest of the Stars’ sound is cemented by the whiny mental patient musings of Eric Paul, with lines like: “I heard, you were a missing child at my funeral/ and I heard, you were jealous of the shovel that dug my grave.”
The tracks “Electrodes In Captivity” and “Passing Out Nails”, with their synthy touches, bring to mind 154 era Wire, while songs like “Girls of Las Vegas” bear resemblance to the infectious dance music of Erase Errata. Even those who hated AOR will surely be nodding their heads and tapping their feet after this gets thrown on the turntable. A Rare Sensation is an appropriately named album — records this good are few and far between these days — and an impressive record that culls a broad range of influences and filters them through four musicians whose past musical experiments and innovations speaks for themselves. Pop a Prozac and Xanax cocktail, down a sixer and enjoy.
Wire – 154
Erase Errata – Other Animals
Arab On Radar – Soak the Saddle