THE CHINESE STARS with the WIVES , LOCUST and SINKING BODY at the Kathedral (651 Queen West), Friday (July 18). $tba. www.thechinesestars.com Rating: NNNNN
In case you haven't been paying attention, disco and punk are friends again, and the post-punk experimentalism of the 80s is hot again, too. It's now cooler to like Public Image Ltd than the Sex Pistols, and all of a sudden copies of the Clash's Sandinista are a hot commodity.
The White Stripes have a mainstream club anthem right now, disco-punk upstarts the Rapture are getting DJs and indie kids all wet, and heavy guitars are rapidly replacing wah-wah funk riffs in dance music.
The Chinese Stars are a very new (about six months old) band working on some of these concepts, but don't discount them as opportunists. Bass player Rick Pelletier is a veteran of now-legendary electro-punk outfit Six Finger Sattellite, and singer Eric Paul and drummer Craig Kureck are both former members of Arab on Radar, an obscure but highly regarded dada-punk no-wave band from Rhode Island.
They've just released their first EP, Turbo Mattress, and are about to embark on a whirlwind tour to support it. If you missed the Chinese Stars a few months ago, don't sleep on them this time. Their live energy is intense and out of control, and their sound expertly treads that thin line between noise and funk.
"The whole aim of this group is to get people moving, which is kind of hard at a live venue - the setting is just not conducive to it," Pelletier explains from Providence.
So, is dance music a big influence on what they're trying to do, or is it just dancing that they're interested in?
"I don't listen to much new dance music, but I have an extensive disco collection from the 70s that I'm really into. Hearing it, realizing that it was mainly played live, is mind-blowing. I guess the only modern electronic music I listen to is Pole, but that's not really dance music.
"We all have an affinity for the early PIL stuff, the first two albums especially. We're all influenced by early 80s British post-punk bands like the Pop Group, and some Joy Division stuff, obviously. It's kind of challenging music - you have to listen to it a lot before you can pick out the good parts."
The disco influence is heard in the beats and bass lines, but the punk side of the equation is more apparent from a casual listen. Paul Vieira's angular guitar skronk hits your ears first, and singer Eric Paul screams nonsense in a high-pitched falsetto as he attacks the mike stand.
This is very loud and somewhat psychotic music - a tough sell for many dance music fans, but a flavour that's needed for DJ culture to evolve and progress. Just remember to bring your earplugs
"I suffer from tinnitus from the previous band I was in, Six Finger Satellite, which was a really loud band," says Pelletier. "My ears ring constantly now, so I wear earplugs whenever I'm around any loud sound.
"I wish I had known when I was younger. You've really got to protect your hearing. These days, with the big car stereos and home entertainment systems, you can blow out your hearing at home."