Goodbye, Beijing. Goodbye, China. What will I miss about you? In a word, it's hard to imagine having more complicated feelings about the people and place I've called home for the last 10 years. When I return Stateside, I'll understandably be endlessly bombarded by the question, "What did you think of China?" And just as I am unable or unwilling to pen my thoughts here, I'll be incapable of relating a satisfactory answer to a question that has no tangible answer in my own head.
The best way to answer it, though, is (of course!!) with an album. This week we hit the pause button on the Eros Plus Melody series and say farewell to the Middle Kingdom by featuring the best Chinese rock album ever made. The Godfather of Chinese rock, the rebel, occasional dissident, and perennial thorn-in-the-government's-side, Cui Jian released Balls Under the Red Flag in 1994. I must admit that outside of random forays into Peking Opera and attending a few underground shows, I never much cared to explore the musical side of China. But Balls Under the Red Flag has been the major exception, an album that I will frequently return to for the rest of my life.
Not without its blemishes, Balls... features fantastic progressive songwriting and some of Cui's best ever guitar jamming (Of the eight songs, six clock in at over seven minutes long; the other two are over five). The title track (Track 3) and The Last Complaint (Track 6) come most highly recommended for their edginess and unique take on "western-influenced" rock. To me at least, they rival anything produced anywhere in the rock world. If you don't listen to anything else, listen to those and tell me I'm wrong.
Whether or not you care about Chinese rock, head over to the comments give this one a spin, even if only as a curiosity piece...