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December 24, 2011

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Shanghai oozes from band's pores

LAST Friday, Yuyintang buzzed with the excitement of the World Cup, Olympics, or an equivalently festive athletic contest. But sport was not on people's minds, "Sports," the new album by post-rock band Duck Fight Goose, was what brought out the hooligans of an entirely different stripe.

And for those who came to this spectacle, they were reciprocated with a harmonious buzz: the one that came from the guitar of Wei Wei (aka Panda) and the noisy denizens of Shanghai known as Duck Fight Goose.

As reported before in this column and just about everywhere else in the China music press, Duck Fight Goose is a young band from Shanghai that has recently garnered a lot of support.

Fronted by singer Han Han, the band was signed by Beijing-based label Maybe Mars Music and has been picked in a variety of "best of" lists of 2011. They announced they will be playing their first shows on the other side of the Pacific at the South-by-Southwest music festival in Austin, USA.

The music excites many because it seems to really reflect the city which birthed it, giving it the type of synergy that's required to really foster something bigger than itself. What that is, is the attempt to navigate life in between the cracks of the hard cement that covers much of Shanghai. The heavy, deep thudding of drummer Cao Dieyu (aka Da Men) and bass of Wu Shanmin bounces around the listener like sound reverberating around the subway; the guitar buzzes like a crowd traversing Nanjing Road at People's Square; the ziggy effects activated by Han Han have the high whine of a commercial emitting from a local taxi's TV screen.

What they see is the other side of Shanghai. The one where the Oriental Pearl TV Tower isn't nifty, but ominous. Where the subways swell with people; so many people they blend together in a rush - indistinguishable - a sea of living but not life.

All of those elements have been a part of Duck Fight Goose's shows over the past few months. What's new while listening to "Sports" is an element that proves evocative and inspiring.

Despite the border-line post-apocalyptic imagining of the city, the story of the album is ultimately one of resilience and triumph. With the aid of recording studio clarity, the listener can hear Han Han's voice rise from a distant baritone to a triumphant holler. After setting the scene in the early part of the album, by track 7 ("Lonesome Man") he screams "And all my young friends / Don't put your weapons down!" shifting the perspective from negation to one nuanced but ultimately positive.

With that, Duck Fight Goose has given a rallying cry to the youth of the city.

Thus far, they've been gathering strength, picking up the stray acolytes that litter any art community. What will happen next, whether the cry will emerge triumphant or sink back in to the background noise of the city, is the lingering question.


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