When Queen Sea Big Shark emerged out of Beijing in 2006/07 channelling the sounds of both surf rock and early 80s New York No-Wave bands such as ESG, The Contortions, and The Bush Tetras they were, rightly or wrongly, labelled as Beijing’s answer to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They dabbled with the sounds of Nu-rave on their sophomore release, 2010’s Wave, and seemed poised to really break out both in China and abroad. Then, nothing, apart from the odd small tour, for six years. They have finally returned for another run at it in 2016 with ‘Beijing Surfer’s Diary 心要野’ (which those of you who are Hanzi inclined will realise is an entirely different album title), a pop opus that finds them incorporating elements from electro folk, disco, peak era Fleetwood Mac, and some quasi rap vocals thrown in for good measure. It’s the sound of a confident band reaching for the mainstream, and festival audiences will be lapping it up this summer with smartphone lights held high in the air.
Where to start
‘Man on the Moon‘ from their eponymous debut is a slow burning indie rocker, whilst ‘Kiss!Kill!Bang!‘ is aimed squarely at the dancefloor in a should have been produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem kind of way. From ‘Waves‘, their second album, ‘Comxxpuda’ is a personal highlight; a tale of losing your boyfriend to their computer with semi-nonsense lyrics set to wonky synth sounds, and ‘Loop of the Sun’ is the band letting loose and rocking out. But, for me, ‘Beijing Surfer’s Diary’ is the first time they’ve managed to really capture the band as they are on stage. You could start with ‘Bling Bling Bling’ a melancholy electro folk anthem made to be sung along with by thousands, or’ 猛犸‘ another huge anthem that deserves to make stars of them. But I’d suggest just listening to the whole album on repeat, as I’ve been doing, second only to going to one of the gigs, as the best introduction.
During the recent May Day holiday weekend (30th April-2nd May) Strawberry Music Festival QSBS also made their return to Shanghai’s World Expo Park. Recent festival highlights have included foreign acts such as Dinosaur Jr., Tricky, Explosions in the Sky, Deerhoof, Justice, MIA, and Blonde Redhead, and Chinese acts such as Zhang Qiang and New Pants, Hanggai, Hedgehog, (Shanghai favourites) Top Floor Circus, Brain Failure, and, of course, Queen Sea Big Shark.