包子虎 - Highway Children
Highway Children is the first album by 包子虎 Bowz Tiger, but the voice may be familiar. Making his mark on the Taiwan indie scene through various seminal bands, first as the drummer for 甜梅號 Sugar Plum Ferry, later as 1/4 of the brilliant and short-lived 追麻雀 Chasing Sparrow, singer/guitarist/songwriter Yoz then compiled two collections of self-released solo material. Many of those songs have made their way into the repertoire of his new ensemble.
Although to call Bowz Tiger his ensemble is a bit unfair - this is definitely a group effort.
Another stalwart of the local scene, Wayne (the Deported, Angry Young Men, Wayne is So Sad) played drums (but 小宇 Xiao Yu of 廢物 Fei Wu fame has now taken over the drum kit), Loretta provides bass and backing vocals, and Bonkit lead guitars. Bonkit told me he recorded the album at his home, receiving several complaints and police visits along the way.
Perhaps his neighbors should have been a little more patient - there's little to complain about on Highway Children, and much to enjoy.
The disc is solid, blues-based indie rock, a lo-fi but balanced recording. Bowz Tiger sing both in Mandarin Chinese and English, sometimes within the same song. I could be nit-picky and decry the grammar, but I feel forgiving of that, knowing how challenging it can be to use a second language. Besides, music can often alter standards and rules, with the feeling being paramount. And on this album, the feeling is definitely strong.
"I wish I could vanish in sounds" is a phrase written on the CD cover and that's how I experience Highway Children. At some point in every listen I'll realize I've drifted deep into the album, floating around in their space, ignoring all else around me.
It all begins with the catchy Passing By 30 and title track, then rolls along for several songs (I really love the guitars in Sunrise Disco), arriving later in the album at more tender numbers like 彩虹歌 (Rainbow Song), and 熱血啦啦啦 (Hot Blood LaLaLa).
慾望森林 (Desire Forest) begins with an easy beat, then builds to a louder, rocking finish, but without feeling overbearing. Little Stories Coming Along is one of my favorites, with almost twee-like moments, but I could easily change my mind and pick Trying or the closing track 花朵 (Flower). I enjoy Loretta's backing vocals - a nice and unique complement to Yoz.
Overall, Highway Children feels like a comfortable and pleasant car ride across the island with old friends, windows down, sun smiling warmly, and a light breeze flitting over your skin.
Loaded with la-la-la's, catchy melodies, and a few tears, it's a journey of sweet memories I'm compelled to travel again and again and again, 46 minutes that feel like a long-gone chapter of my life, lovingly re-lived.