In case you couldn’t tell from all the kids walking around wearing Buddy Holly glasses, “geek chic” has arrived in China—and that includes its rock music. Though geek rock may not boast the same kind of following as it does in the US, the genre has produced one of the freshest, poppiest bands to hit the indie circuit since Hedgehog: Mr. Graceless.
The fresh-faced trio emerged in 2008 from Beijing’s university scene, standing out with a batch of quirky indie-pop songs that interlace mellow, catchy choruses with controlled bouts of experimental dissonance. Their music is so finely crafted and melodious that it sounds like something you’ve heard before—and draws countless comparisons. Think Of Montreal with less irony; Vampire Weekend on cold medicine; the Gar on vacation in 80s Manchester.
There’s all of this and more on the band’s debut album The Tree Ever Green, which was released this past February by indie label Maybe Mars. Produced by indie-recording wunderkind Chen Yuli, the record boasts a slick craftsmanship that belies Mr. Graceless’ youth. As the album’s Douban page notes, The Tree Ever Green doesn’t succumb to the kind of pandering showmanship or longwinded poeticism that so often plagues swaggering young bands; the album is a deft, mature accomplishment that hits the perfect mix of melancholy and droll, winking cheer.
It’s a surprisingly understated style for a band that’s usually grouped with a generation of bands marked by brash, noisy experimentalism. But, as the band members have noted, Mr. Graceless is more about making music they like than music that’ll impress Andy Warhol wannabes.
This is likely a big reason why the band has managed to build up a solid following among college students and young urban types—in other words, the kind of kids who would be just fine with Buddy Holly glasses, whether they have lenses or not.
The band doesn’t have any music videos yet, but you can check out an extremely orange video of the band performing the song “温暖地平线” (“Warm Horizon”) from their new album below. You can find more info and music on their Douban page, and Beijingers can see the band in the flesh this Tuesday afternoon, April 3, for their album release show at Mao Livehouse.