Searching for a Brighter Future

The Chinkees

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Searching for a Brighter Future Review

by Rick Anderson

The Chinkees' frontman (and Asian Man label head) Mike Park was always the most interesting songwriter in Skankin' Pickle, the Bay Area third wave ska revival band he played with in the late '80s and early '90s. Where the other writers in the band tended to lash out with vanilla hardcore or yelp their way through novelty ska-punk, Park's compositions tended to be both lyrically clearheaded and melodically tight. It's a rare and wonderful combination of traits, one which he has brought to bear with his own post-third wave ska revival band. Consisting entirely of Asian-Americans of various national derivations (one Korean, one Japanese, one Chinese, one Vietnamese, and one...Philippino?), the Chinkees sing a lot about racism and violence, but manage to deliver what are sometimes fairly heavy-handed lyrical messages with lighthearted humor, or at least a genuine sense of goodheartedness and generosity. "Where's the Avenue?" gently chides bands who sold out when ska's revival fizzled, "I Scream" addresses intrafamily strife with an attitude of bewilderment but without hostility, and "Beautiful Day, Much Brighter Now" is a wry examination of the rat race. You can be a good person and still make lousy music; what makes the Chinkees so impressive is that the music is so good, and the people seem to be as well.

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