Ian Lin

Ian Lin

Freshman

Rock’n Roll is a type of continuous chemical reaction

July 11, 2018

I would describe my transition from highschool to university as “drastic”.

It was the first time for me to make a timetable without counselor’s help. I have to learn how to manage my time. Everything seems unfamiliar, and the stress can be unbearable at times, I didn’t even have time to make friends. Suddenly, like the oxidation of magnesium, everything turned into irreversible ash.    

“Please don’t change for anyone or anything.” When everything was over, someone told me this. But I have already gone through countless irreversible changes. Because of her words, I have struggled for awhile. I was reluctant. I couldn’t decide whether if I should stay the same or change for something better.  

I gave up struggling when I realized that person has gone through changes as well. I have started to question the meaning of “rock’n roll”. I used to think that being a rocker is to protect what you hold dearly, be as stubborn as a “rock”. I forgot “rock” is actually short for “rock’n roll”, it represents a constant changing of state. So I guess, if there is a spectrum for rock’n roll philosophy, one side would be the “tough like a rock” state that never change by anything, the opposite side would be the “rolling” state that keeps on changing from time to time.       

Coincidentally, I think there are 2 bands at this year’s TAIWANfest that fall under this spectrum. I would put CRAS on that “tough like a rock” end of the spectrum, and I think Chelsea’s Tail would be the band that falls on that “rolling” end.

According to their Facebook post, Chelsea’s Tail is at a turning point. This is not the first time for the band to change its music direction and members. It is the fourth time. This time, their original bassist is set to return to their lineup once again.

As a Post-Hardcore Punk rock band, with guitarist Robby, drummer Ricky, and the returned bassist John, the trio combined their singing skills into the harmonic vocals that is unique to the band.  

So what is “Post-Hardcore Punk”? To explore the definition of this genre, I would like to look at the definition of “Hardcore Punk” first. According to the internet (cough…Wikipedia…cough), hardcore punk is generally faster, harder, and more aggressive than other forms of punk rock. At times, hardcore-punk is heavily involved with the DIY ethic in the underground music scene.

“Post-Hardcore Punk”, according to its name, is an extension of hardcore punk, but instead of focusing on the aggressiveness and intensity like its predecessor, it emphasizes on the DIY ethic. It is seeking the optimization of creative expression.

In other words, “Post-Hardcore Punk” artists might even forfeit the aggressiveness and intensity in order to achieve creative expression. They are more open to other music genre as well. In my opinion, by welcoming elements from other genre and fusing them with the characteristics of hardcore punk, their musics begin to progress toward post-hardcore punk.

On Chelsea’s Tail’s SoundCloud Page, they have this song called “Of the Earth (We Are Here)“ (https://soundcloud.com/chelseas-tail/chelseas-tail-of-the-earth). This song got my attention due to the unique waveform that was displayed on the web player. It looks like a brick wall, which is odd because every other song looks more natural with peaks and troughs.

I pressed the “PLAY” button, and got attacked by the intense music as predicted. This song totally fits the definition discussed above. It has fast tempo and loud bass which my speaker could not handle. Most importantly, the tone is very emotional, with screams and growls here and there. I really thought there was an issue during the production, otherwise this song should not have such an unnatural waveform.

Since my speakers could not handle the bass, I have to rely on my high quality headphones. That leaded me to some interesting discovery. I found some hidden details such as the  exquisite guitar riff buried underneath the unfriendly bass.

I wanted to capture that guitar riff, maybe even try to remove that “brick wall”. But I can’t.  

That’s when I heard the acoustic version of “Of the Earth (We Are Here)” (https://soundcloud.com/chelseas-tail/of-the-earth-acoustic). Thanks to this version, I got a chance to grasp the true nature of the hidden details.

It is even more exquisite than what I originally thought.

Acoustic guitar and the harmony of the trio (even though I am not so certain whether if the recently returned bassist John is among the them) were combined to form this song. That brick wall has vanished. It has been replaced by a shroud of bleakness. It is hard to imagine a band can be both hard and soft at the same time. You can tell this version is well planned, it has complicated harmonic structure and guitar composition. They gave this song a new spin.  

But one might argue that “Of the Earth (We Are Here)” is their own creation, they can perform however they want, it is really nothing special. As a way to counter the argument, they covered other 4 well-known hits to prove their passion for music.

They covered “Sex Bomb” by Tom Jones (https://soundcloud.com/chelseas-tail/sex-bomb-chelsified), “Royals” by Lorde (https://soundcloud.com/chelseas-tail/lorde-royals-chelsified), “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (https://soundcloud.com/chelseas-tail/thrift-shop-chelsified-1), and last but not least, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk (https://soundcloud.com/chelseas-tail/get-lucky-chelsified).

“Sex Bomb” is faster in Chelsea’s Tail’s cover, and much catchier. All you need to do is to play it once, and the chorus would become an earworm. The “Royals” cover’s intro kept the drum composition from the original, but as the song continued to play, you would hear the sharper vocal and complicated drum lines that are different from the original. My favourite covers from them are “Thrift Shop” and “Get Lucky”. Originally, the former is a hipster hip-hop song, the latter is a happy house music. Under their arrangement, both songs have become enjoyable rock songs. With the help of the energized guitar, bass, and drum, these covers can make you forget how exhausted your day was.   

You can tell, Chelsea’s Tail had fun making those covers.

I think the covers somehow demonstrated the creative expression that post-hardcore punk artists are constantly searching for. Combining the things they are good at with elements from other genre, and something unprecedented will be created, like A+B→AB, a chemical equation.

Musically, Chelsea’s Tail went through self-decomposition, reacting with other elements, and produce new elements in the end. Every time when an old member left, and a new one added, the band probably lost something but also gained something in return. They have been moving forward under this circumstance.        

“Allons-y”, a recently uploaded single on their spotify page (https://open.spotify.com/track/4VY7Yk24N6TVQbcyMTFNkz), that can be traced back to 2014 according to their Youtube account (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEIXd_KahZo). The title means “Let’s Go” in French, but the chorus of the song consists tons of “I don’t wanna go”. The intro is an attractive guitar riff that makes me keep replaying the song. At first, I did not understand what this song is about, I thought it is about a conversation between a fighting couple. Eventually, I realized this is a tribute to the famous long-running TV show, “Doctor Who”. “Allons-y” is one of the Tenth Doctor’s catchphrases in the show.

Because the show has been playing for a long time, once in awhile the actor who plays the main character, the Doctor, has to retire from the role, and a new actor has to be brought in for the same role. To explain this discontinuity, the Doctor is said to be “regenerated” in case of mortal damage to the body. The newly “regenerated” Doctor would have new appearance and personality. I guess Chelsea’s Tail must feel connected to the Doctor in some way.  

At the end of the song, the lyrics “This is me,/This is me,/Allons-y/Allons-y/You can run; You can hide/But in time, you’ll abide/Don’t you see, this is me?/Allons-y, allons-y” serves as an announcement. It is like telling the world that Chelsea’s Tail will keep moving forward, keep regenerating, keep chasing that music creativity.

From all the fragments of information gathered from Chelsea’s Tail, I have witnessed the changes one might encounter in life. The old combined with the new, forcing a chemical reaction. Whether if the outcome is for better or worse, there is no definitive answer. But I can guarantee this: Without participating in the “chemistry experiment”, you will never be able to draw any conclusion.   

The oxidation of magnesium might only leave you with all the burnt remain as the final product, but the radiant heat and bright white light it generated during the process can be very unforgettable.

I hypothesize that rock’n roll is a chemical reaction that is very similar to the oxidation of magnesium, and I have a method to prove it to you.

So, bring your notepad and pencil, we have an experiment to attend at this year’s TAIWANfest!

Recomendation:Compare the recently released “Allons-y” with the 2014 version on YouTube, and see if you can spot the difference. And then come to this year’s TAIWANfest to see what they are like after their most recent “chemical reaction”.

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