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V/A - Teen Dance Music From China And Malaysia

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Artist: V/A

Album: Teen Dance Music From China And Malaysia

Label: Thrift Score

Review date: Oct. 30, 2002

Teen Woof

The contents of the album Teen Dance Music From China and Malaysia were discovered in a brown paper bag in the dusty corner of a seldom-visited thrift store. Dozens of records, dating from the early sixties to the mid seventies, documenting the various psychedelic and go-go sounds that had the youth of the Far East convulsing on the dance floor, anonymously donated. What would Chairman Mao say? The albums were purchased by a startled enthusiast, poured over for a number of weeks, and the choice cuts were transferred to CD to create a personal best-of compilation of this little known subculture.

Sadly, the listener doesn’t walk away with much new information. Easily in the same vain as Crippled Dick Hot Wax’s one-two whammy, Vampyros Lesbos and The School Girl Report, Teen Dance Music From China and Malaysia lacks the superficial, but ever important liner notes to fill the listener in on the music’s colorful history, as well as the all-important nude photos of the women of the era. While Vampyros Lesbos and The School Girl Report provided detailed notes and unrated photographs of their subjects, here the only history given is the genesis of the album, not the genesis of the music. Let’s be honest though, these types of albums are meant to be as funny as they are quick courses in cultural anthropology. Track listing alone, Teen Dance Music From China and Malaysia receive a passing grade.

Of the few covers of the original records provided on the CD case, the funniest has the title: “The A-Go-Go From the River Kwai.” The cover paints a lone cowboy galloping under a sweltering sun amongst cactus. The artists, the Man Chau Po Orchestra, managed to take a gay’ole British score to a World War Two film, inject some Go-Go beats and then infuse a Spaghetti Western feel into it as well. Talk about a cultural mosaic! Thus is the rest of the album, where song titles alone show a plethora of Western influences, no matter how out of place. In fact, minus the Man Chau Po Orchestra and The Love of Apricot Blossom, the bands all wear distinctly non-Oriental names like The Polar Five and The Brothers Hawk. The music draws largely from Western films, awkwardly adding drum beats and labeling the sound “rhumba” or your choice of South of the border rhythms. Then truth is, despite the various “soul” or “salsa” indications in the title, a quick listen will reveal that every beat from song to song is exactly the same. God Bless Them!

The album’s highpoint of spectacle and cockamamie ridiculousness is captured in the Styler’s epic “Themes From James Bond.” Not one, but four Connery films are covered, each with their own musical styles. “Dr. No” is done in a “A Go Go”, “From Russia with Love” gets the “A Go Go/Rhumba” treatment, “You’ll (sic) Only Live Twice” is apparently “Soul” and finally, “Thunderball” is “A Fast A Go Go.” Man, these genres cover more territory than Bond does. The brilliance of the track is not its scope, but rather that every section of the song is exactly the same, minus the “Soul” section which sounds like the record simply slows down. All four sections pack a competent rhythm section with a lone electric guitar supplying Barry’s memorable theme.

On a good stereo, the album’s beats are winning, though obviously recycled and simplified (simplified from what? I dare ask myself). Though they’ll never actually incline one to get off his sofa while listening to it, it does pack more of a punch than Crippled Dick Hot Wax’s major releases (though, again, it suffers largely from lack of notes). The ingredients are all there: congas, steel guitar, the wah-wah pedal, as are the necessary styles for this kitschy release: surfer, Polynesian and A-Go-Go, and the results are exactly as one would expect. Musically, this is a better album than Schoolgirl Report or Vampyros Lesbos. However, it is a noticeably weaker package, nude German students and Italian Countesses provide plenty of background information once the music gets old. Teenage Dance Music from China and Malaysia is a great collection and a great find, considering most of this music would have disappeared forever. While I can wish for more info on the time period and the musicians responsible, I also feel enlightened to learn that though these teenagers lived on the other side of the globe and had totally different governments than we did, inside, they love the same shitty music.

By Addison MacDonald

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