Chinese Burn – From Teenage Threads to Middle Age Spread, Album Review
Independent record labels have been around since Rock N Roll was sucking its thumb, the numbers grew substantially in the 70s with the arrival of Punk. Labels like Stiff Records started with £400 from Dr Feelgood front man Lee Brilleaux, or Spiral Scratch the self financed Buzzcocks debut who scrapped together £500 from family to start their journey. The importance of these labels in music cannot be overlooked, they are the ones who take risks, who create dreams, who find a way when all else fails. They gather in the good the bad and the ugly like a musical shelter, releasing material that is both magical and appalling with everything in between. One of my memories of looking through second hand vinyl like an animal foraging for food, was coming across bands that no one had heard of but for some reason looked interesting enough to give a listen, being on an Indie label gave it some kind of quality assurance to part with your cash irresponsibly. These are the diamonds when found would never leave the cave if not for the small labels, Chinese Burn remind me of this era after discovering them at rebellion 2017 in a dark half empty hall. The singers coat was of the bright red military variety with gold buttons and tails straight out of Top of the Pops prop room, as he lunged and posed like Mick Jagger and David Johansen’s long lost younger brother. There album” From Teenage Threads to Middle Age Spread” has that late 70s sound full of melody, sharp guitars and heavy beats while the lyrics work the songs like a charm.
The Stroud band have some engaging riffs that take lots of influence from the late 70s, but these guys are not stuck in the past teaching a history lesson they back it up with the goods to make a young body dance. Imaginative titles throughout the album, we start with “Long Live the Underdog” which has some growling guitar before the snapping drums are around your heels, the album has some well put together arrangements that really compliment the vocal delivery. The chant goes up “We Are With You All The Way, Its An Uphill Slog, Long Live the Underdog”, this may be of use to other bands who travel around the country most weekends. “Shut your Mouth” starts with drive, anticipation and purpose, and it delivers with passion, power and melody with some more fine arrangements. The skillful writing around that one friend who turns into a walking rectum when lubricated with alcohol, not every band can pull of lyrics with metamorphosis and Gibraltar in the same song with style. The diamond in the mine for me on this album is ”Defending Stalingrad” a menacing intro starts to pick up pace gradually rumbling along preparing to open fire like a Panzer tank, the descriptive lyrics place you at the scene peppered with brick dust and shrapnel till released by a defiant chorus. I’m lucky enough to have the lyric sheet with me which could be joined by an ASBO at any moment, as the neighbours are not as enthusiastic as I feel they should be regarding this song and need encouragement. The band touches social subjects with skill and cunning, wrapping them round sing-along hooks and choruses like “Stained” a song of young vulnerability and regrets that can last a lifetime. Some intricate guitar work is intermittent between the verses; the harmonies are around your head on this one backing up the lead vocals at every turn. The last track on the album is a little lower keyed and has a slightly 60s influence in the guitar work, “Bristlecon Pine” tells a tale of ageing, loneliness and losing friends. The tune is upbeat but has an unhappy vibe running through it, melodic from start to finish with nicely formed chorus to give the album a classy finish.
I am glad to say the child like excitement of discovering new music is still with me, whether it’s one song in a million the search is always worth being ear deep in shit some of the time. This album will not be what everyone enjoys listening, but that is the beauty of music when it touches an individual like an invisible taser on your emotions. After listening to ” From Teenage Threads to Middle Age Spread” a number of times (and a number of times more), I have to say they have produced an album of quality from start to finish in my opinion with some outstanding arrangements and song writing. As for “Defending Stalingrad” I think the late John Peel would have made us speak among ourselves while he prepared to play this again.