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Album Review: Chinese Football – S/T (original)

At one point I’m no longer sure if it was parody or mistaken. They do realise American Football refers to hand-eggs and not foot-ball, right? To further my suspicions, the cover art of Chinese Football’s S/T featured an actual football.

But please don’t be fooled, Chinese Football doesn’t always sound like American Football, at times they also sound like a discounted late-phase post-rock band.

3 tracks in and I felt like I’ve heard “飛魚轉身” a gazillion times before, it fits into the category of aimless and immature songs that every pseudo-math-rock band stumble into, an overly long build-up for an ending that isn’t intriguing at any scale.

Further down the album, “400米”& “世界悲” are songs that hinge on resemblance rather than actual brilliance, not to mention the exploitative use of major 7 chords. They had me ticking checkboxes and locating genre tropes, more than anything else.

At the middle of the album is an interlude, a rather uneventful one I must add. It didn’t lead to a change of pace nor was it a break from normality, which were both in great demand. There is simply not enough tonal or tempo variations during the first half.

The second half had more substance and dynamics to it but still failed to establish home-turf. While both “紅牌罰下” and “帽子戲法” broke away from the normality of earlier songs, they are still generic.

Taking in the album as a whole, the majority of it was spent making references without offering enough development or playful anecdotes to make it original. Even when all the songs were dutifully performed and decently produced, this S/T is not an interesting album.

There is a genuine lack of depth in writing and arrangement; a reliance on well-established genre tropes that reminds more than innovates. What is also blatantly missing is the band’s character. At the end, “Chinese Football” is a blend album plagued by resemblance.

Analysis:

The root of said problems seems to lie in a lack of understanding in Mid-West emo. Indeed American Football was part of the emo saga but not the entirety of it. Unlike many other genres, emo doesn’t refer to a well-defined musical playground. Instead the term is better related to a community and a set of values. Failing to understand this promises conceptual pitfalls.

On the other hand, one simply cannot replicate American Football’s sound intentionally. Recent interviews revealed that part of the writing on the American Football album was done on the fly, which definitely gave the record a unique character. You cannot plan an accident, I’m afraid.

With the resurgence of 90s emo came waves of generic replications, bands that scratched the mere surface of the genre without internalization. This happened to post-punk, shoegaze and post-rock, it is no surprise that it should happen to emo and future victims.

Bands in revival movements typically enter a genre retrospectively, bringing in musical influences from the next decade in a reversed manner. In Chinese Football’s case, it was the 00s post-rock elements that had made their way into the songs, most apparent at the intro of “世界悲” and the whole of “再見米盧”. This alone isn’t a problem, but combined with lazy compositions and desire to fill genre tropes often breeds uninspiring music.

If I’m allowed to give advice, it would be to write without actively trying to fit in. Influences will shine through one way or the other, whether you want it or not.

Reviewed by: Sam’s friend

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