Hailing from Taipei, but including members of Beijing’s Carsick Cars and Birdstriking amongst their numbers as well as the frontman from PK14 on production duties, Skip Skip Ben Ben are something of a Chinese underground super group. Their live shows have a reputation for sonic terrorism; if you worry about losing your hearing in later life then some form of earplugs are highly advisable. Last time I saw them it took four days for me to fully regain mine.
Proud owners of three high quality albums, their sound changes only incrementally with each one, but it’s very much a case of if it ain’t broke for them. Their first album ‘NO-FI, NO FICTION’ very much lives up to the first half of its title, sounding like it was recorded in a bathroom (in a good way). It’s their most experimental and least accessible piece of work but signposts where they’re going. Their second, and my personal favourite, album ‘Sacrifice Mountain Hills’ is a much easier body of music to love; lead singer Ben Ben’s ethereal vocals this time backed by the sort of warm production that made My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ such an arthouse joy to listen to. For their third outing ‘Mirror in Mirror’ they debut a much more playful side (equal parts Stereolab and the Cocteau Twins), whilst simultaneously losing a portion of the wall of sound that was so prevalent before; it’s still present but the songs themselves are allowed to do more of the work this time.
For fans of: My Bloody Valentine, the Cocteau Twins, Ride, Jesus & Mary Chain, Daisy Chainsaw, Slowdive, Dinosaur Jr. Skip Skip Ben Ben draw influences from the best of the shoegaze scene of the late 80s/early 90s.
Where to start: ‘Over’, from ‘Mirror in Mirror’, shows off their new found irreverence by incorporating the melody line from ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ on a Bontempi organ. ‘Last Light’, the opening track on their second album, with its driving guitar opening and reverb drenched vocals is a true high point, and a likely candidate for ear drum bursting in a live set. From their debut album, ‘Kiss Me Blind’ is the sort of music Lou Barlow (Sebadoh/Dinosaur Jr) would have been making if he was female and from Taiwan, and ‘Back to Taipei’ is just a classic piece of melancholic pop with only the best in lo-fi production values.
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