In the 18 months since Hebei-via-Bejing punk trio [Rustic](http://site.douban.com/rustic) first appeared on City Weekend’s [The Beat](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/shanghai-the-beat-new/maybe-mars-showcase-preview-introducing-rustic/), there has been much contention and confusion concerning the overwhelming public support and acceptance of a band that is clearly more appreciated for their clothing and hair style choices than their actual music, which is basically a combination of lowest-common-denominator punk and 80’s pop metal.
Despite, several underwhelming shows in Shanghai in 2010, the Rustic machine gained serious steam, first inking a deal with Beijing indie label [Maybe Mars](http://www.maybemars.com), and then earning distinction as the best band in the world, according to the [Global Battle of the Bands](http://www.gbob.com).
Increased touring and television opportunities helped Rustic further develop their stage show -- which has always been entertaining, with bassist Rikki (who has recently shaved off his flowing locks and traded the leather chaps for a more punk rock look) and guitarist/vocalist Lucifer synchronizing duck walks and insinuating fellatio -- but these antics often cover up the sophomoric nature of the band’s music.
So, finally, after much anticipation, Rustic have released their debut LP City of Heartbreak n’ Horror, and after a single listen, it’s clear that this band is not much more than sweet outfits and funny gimmicks.
Produced by Yang Haisong of PK14 fame, City of Heartbreak n’ Horror stumbles through 33 minutes of three-chord punk, attempting to use studio tricks like vocal doubling and rain storm samples and a polished sonic sheen to add depth to music that would sound best if it were recorded live, lo-fi, gritty and raw.
While Rustic use songwriting conventions like pitch modulation and vocal-only choruses effectively on “Modern Love” and “Living in a World of Fallacy,” they often take a step backward by making a complete mockery of themselves, best exemplified by the “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” intro in the album’s third track “Erotic Films.”
Somewhere in the middle of their monotonous and constant 1-4-5 chord progressions (and variations of that classic blues paradigm), Rustic do hammer out couple solid hooks (“Modern Love,” “Living in a World of Fallacy”), and the punchy and dance-y “Summer View,” with its heavy, rolling bass line and distorted, reverb-driven leads, actually carries the hefty weight that Maybe Mars and GBOB have placed on the young band.
Still, “Girls are Not Yours” sounds like a track that didn’t quite make the final cut of Motley Crue’s Girls, Girls, Girls, and the clarinet solo on “Wild Woman” sounds out of place and superfluous.
Not quite a total flop, but certainly not a success, City of Heartbreak n’ Horror does not take away from Rustic’s reputation as a watchable live act, but it does question the listen-ability of their music. It also brings into question lingering sentiments that the Beijing talent pool is quickly drying up, but we’ll leave those for another time.
Catch Rustic this [Friday, June 3rd](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/events/87593/) at [Yuyintang](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/nightlife/live_music/has/yuyintang/). City of Heartbreak n’ Horror available for purchase at the show.