China drops new LP
To say that coming across authentic folk music in the digital age that we’re presently living in is a chance occurrence that shouldn’t be squandered might be the biggest understatement a critic like myself could make, and such exceptional authenticity can be found in the ten songs that comprise And Then Nothing Happened, the brand new album from Bay Area folk-stalwarts China. Glistening guitars guide us through the mountainous melodies of “Carnations” and “Bitter Sailor;” the fierce stomp of “St Jerome” is rivaled only by the gritty contrast in the Crazy Horse-esque “Crossing the Ohio;” and even in rollicking country songs like the title track, the rustic tonality of the band reigns supreme no matter what angle you’re analyzing the music from. And Then Nothing Happened features a sublimely refreshing sound in a time that has run rampant with poetic plasticity, the likes of which would never have been tolerated some half-century ago. If you’re the type of indie rock fan who doesn’t enjoy an electrified slab of pastoral music presented through genuinely DIY means that stand as a testament to the inspired sonic exchanges of the band shaping them, I’d steer clear of this album. All others would be wise to acquire their own copy this coming February 22nd.
The chemistry here is utterly off the charts from the moment we get rolling with the surreal “Marnie” to the second that we reach a stoic conclusion in “Until This Then This is the End,” and I like that while the lyrics are usually at the forefront of every composition included on And Then Nothing Happened, they aren’t self-righteous or show-stealing in the least. China’s collective play is so nimble and well arranged in this record that it forges an emotional identity of its own alongside the words that bring its unspoken charisma to life. In the instance of “Satan’s Got a River” or “If I Had to Move,” the music is telling just as much of a story as the poetry within the verses is, and in other, more cutting lyrical numbers like “St Jerome,” the title track and “Carnations,” the back and forth dueling between the string section and the drums helps to soften their relentless linguistic blows.
There are a lot of layers to And Then Nothing Happened that will likely keep music aficionados of all ages, backgrounds and tastes pretty busy through the end of the year (or whenever China decides to reward the public with another LP), and personally, I don’t intend on putting it down anytime soon. Though it’s far from a hook-laden pop effort from a band trying to shed their underground persona, it’s perhaps the most deliberately accessible record that the band has released thus far, though I wouldn’t say that it was intended to reshape their musical profile at all. Instead of changing every component in their sound to suit the needs of a demanding mainstream market, they’ve expanded on the tonality of Pool of Tears and Towards the Sun, and in the process rendered their most complete and robustly packaged album to date.