Above: Snapline lead singer Cheng Xi at Mao Livehouse Oct 6 2007
If you like the Talking Heads and the Cure, and enjoy the industrial noise issuing from a distorted electric guitar, you'll like Snapline. In the words of my mate Jimbo, this is "the ultimate geek band." The lead singer is a thin, gawky, sharp-featured and oddly handsome dude named Cheng Xi. He dresses like a hip schoolboy, with baggy pants and a white collared shirt with semi-long sleeves. He sports a pair of glasses with thick black frames, common to the hip punkster scene. When he sings, his face contorts into a weird grimace, as if he were laughing at his own secret joke. He does a gawky David Byrne-like dance as he holds the mic. As Jimbo my swing dancing pal said, he ought to be wearing a zoot suit a few sizes too large for him.
The music is jumpy, punchy, catchy. It isn't angry punk stuff. Not quite happy either, but somewhere in between. Bizarre stuff. It's fed by the industrial sounds of female guitarist Li Qing, who is similarly dressed in a white shirt and dark pants. The bassist Li Weisi keeps the rhythm going. He also wears a thick pair of black framed glasses, dark pants, white shirt. In other words there's some coordination in couture going on here. The band is tight and polished.
Like a kid playing with a new toy--a dangerous toy at that--Li Qing keeps bending down to adjust the knobs on her distortion controls. I like it better when she's at the synth backing up Cheng Xi's vocals--you can hear him better that way, and he really is the show.
I've seen them twice now, the first time at D22 on Thurs night, second time on Sat night (Oct 6) at the Mao Livehouse. Spoke briefly with Cheng Xi at the Mao bar, where I enjoy hanging out owing largely to the cute bartender (the gal not the guy, but he's pretty cute too), who knows her shit when it comes to music. She used to manage a band. Anyhow, Cheng Xi comes across as a pretty humble guy. I asked him how many albums they've sold so far. He said somewhere in the hundreds, and that he was surprised they were doing so well. I told him I'd talked to an Aussie bloke at D22 who organized tours for rock bands, and that he wanted to take Snapline to Australia. He said he knew about this and would be happy to go. I told him he was most welcome in Sydney and that his band would definitely have a following.
So far they've put out one album, "Party is Over, Pornstar" (2007). It's more polished and less industrial-noise oriented than their live act. Good music for Halloween. Haunting. And unlike many other Chinese punk singers who sing in English, you can actually understand the lyrics.
Will be paying more attention to this band in the future.