China Drum

Barrier [U.S. EP]

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First, this obscure English band's third import single appeared, then, to what should our wondering eyes appear, but a U.S. six-song CD of the best of the 11 cuts on those singles, on a major-distributed label at that. (You were expecting a sleigh and flying reindeer?) Since the U.S. EP is probably in every used bin in America by now, it's readily available and cheap, and contains some of the best punk-pop around, thanks to the brisk harmonies on every song that temper that attack and make each song singalong-able. The furious "Great Fire" is here, as is the honest, frank tune ("Even I can be pretentious") that Leatherface covered on the B-side of its final Winsome Losesome 7" single, "Meaning" ("If you apologize/We can leave this all behind"), as well as the title track from China Drum's hot single Barrier, of course. The cut-to-the-marrow lyrics are sung with piercing harmonies, the strong chorus melodies contrasting with the gleefully blasting, clock-tight bashings of punk. With a singing drummer named Adam Lee, China Drum brings back memories of later-period Hüsker Dü when Grant Hart was at the mike, or the faster side of the Volcano Suns. And it wouldn't be surprising if they convincingly covered the Descendents or Buzzcocks someday. Dig the new breed! The only regret is that 510 didn't go all the way and make this an 11-song LP, in the way that Lush and Ride had their earliest import EPs completely compiled into albums to introduce them to the U.S. market. These EP things often get overlooked.

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