Sensory Overload: With a little more vocal work, Chinese School will graduate gloriously

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From the August 29, 2013 edition

As my buddy Joey Gibson likes to point out, seeing new bands these days is a pleasure for those of us hovering in that late 20s/early 30s region because all the new bands grew up on the same music we did.

Maybe I’m just projecting my own CD walletonChinese School, whom I caught last Thursday at Kobo, but I could swear these four young gentlemengrew up on the exact same stuff I was gobbling circa senior year of high school. So of course I thought they were fantastic

Sometimes they operated in art-school jam mode Wilco has all but trademarked by now, with spacey guitar epics and flowing bass parts anchored by straight pop choruses. Other times there was kind of a basement emo feel, like when Trail of Dead slows its catharticonslaught to mid-tempo, though even that had a pop touch to it.Big-time guitar work out of ’90s Radiohead reared its head too,

The weirdest songs were the first two, which started out as mechanistic, punchy little latter-day Strokes tunes, like the ones where Julian and company are trying to be the Cars. Eventually, those both morphed into humongous over-the-top post-rock epics. Not sure how they got from point A to point B, but they did it.

Those seamless transitionarebut a fractionof the evidence that besides a coherent vision, thee guys have just about every other aspect of being a band on lock. Performance-wise, they were synced up but loose enough to breathe, never losing their composure except when the frontman’s guitar strap humorously came apart at the beginning of the first song.

Each ingredient seemed to serve the songs while also managing to stand out as its own little flash of genius:Those thunderous tom rolls and bombastic snare parts! Those grooving, melodic bass lines! Those pentatonic monster riffs! Those percussive jabs and scrapes!

Unsurprisingly, the vocals were the least notable element in play. Like most young bands, Chinese School could stand to step its game up at the mic, but if they approach that with the same diligence they used to learn the other tricks of the trade, they’ll be gloriously serenading us soon enough.

Photo by Chris DeVille