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We may not hear about it in the Western World, but Shanghai, China actually has quite an interesting music scene. It’s not refined by any means, being largely made up by a rough lot of DIY outsiders, but that’s, of course, a recipe for really interesting music.
While the guitar/drums duo thing is tired, passé and generally a bore, Pairs, comprised of drummer/vocalist Xiao Zhong, aka Rhys, and guitarist F have somehow hit the nail on the head. Whether it’s the wide-eyed fury with which Xiao Zhong delivers his lyrics, or just a general authenticity that’s usually lacking in such a lineup, Pairs offer something exciting, where most others are boring hipster failures.
Comparisons to The White Stripes or Royal Trux would be easy, but not really accurate, as the songs on Cockroach have a lot more in common with Big Black, Shellac, The Fall and 400 Blows. Xiao Zhong definitely suffers from “swelling itching brain,” a condition that forces him to rant and rave about every little thing that annoys him in life, creating a persona that rests somewhere between Steve Albini, John Lydon and Mark Smith. His drumming is a perfect synthesis of punk rock and post-punk, straightforward one measure, all dancing hi-hat disco the next. F’s guitar is simple, but effective, a primal wall of distorted bar chords and power chords that perfectly augment the frenzied rhythms. It’s punk rock the way it should be – loud, snarling and pissed-off, ready to flip out on the next sniveling twit who just happens to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
In the closing “Don’t Fly My Body Back,” Xiao Zhong chants “If I die here/Don’t fly my body back/I don’t care where where I’m laid to rest/I’ll always know where my home is” as the guitar and drums crash around him. It’s a statement of defiance and freedom that perfectly sums up this pair.
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