Music review: Golden Melody winners No Party For Cao Dong voice out Taiwan youth's frustrations

No Party For Cao Dong (above) won Best Musical Group at the recent Golden Melody Awards.
No Party For Cao Dong (above) won Best Musical Group at the recent Golden Melody Awards.PHOTO: LYTHA CHEN

The Servile is the sound of Taiwan's disenfranchised youth venting their frustrations and it has struck a chord in their homeland.

At the recent prestigious Golden Melody Awards, the indie rock band No Party For Cao Dong took home three awards from six nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Musical Group.

Singer-songwriter Kay Huang, head of the Golden Melody judging panel, hailed their work: "They're the explosion of a smothered generation."

Their track Da Feng Chui (Simon Says), which won Song of the Year, is a scathing criticism of society's obsession with material goods and the need for one-upmanship.

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Using a simple everyday example, frontman Wu Tu sings without heat: "Cry, shout, ask your mother to buy a toy/Hurry to school and show off, child, make some friends/Aiyaya, look at what you're holding/We've long disdained that, hahaha."

That equanimity is shattered at the end when he tears into the chorus with a lacerating howl.

  • INDIE ROCK

  • THE SERVILE

    No Party For Cao Dong

    Shih Pih

    4.5/5 stars

A sense of helplessness pervades The Reluctant (Yong Gan De Ren) as the singer rails: "Those cheap tears, don't hang them by your mouth/Nothing has changed, nothing will change."

The mood is bleak down to the final track Qing Ge (literally Love Song, but officially titled as Mottos, Bygones in English).

"I've sold my home town, lied to my lover/But the setbacks and terrors remain," sings Wu Tu.

The album, which is seamless, stops short of feeling oppressive as the songs are powered by electric guitars and searing honesty, with disco beats and grunge influences thrown into the mix.

The band took their name from Cao Dong Street in Taipei's Yangmingshan - a favourite hangout of their members, who include Chu Chu (guitar), Shih Hsuan (bass) and Fan Fan (drums).

They began selling out gigs in 2015 on the strength of their live performances and singles such as Lan Ni (Wimpish) before the release of their debut album in March last year.

Yet on Lan Ni, the band wrestle with self-doubt: "What I want to say, others have said before me/ What I want to do, people with money have already done."

That sentiment is unwarranted - there is no question that No Party For Cao Dong have a voice that is distinctly their own.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Distinctive voice of youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe