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The Chinese Stars - Turbo Mattress

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Artist: The Chinese Stars

Album: Turbo Mattress

Label: Skin Graft

Review date: Oct. 30, 2003

Those of us who have been patiently awaiting a comeback from the exuberant Eric Paul will be pleased with his new band The Chinese Stars, but there are some unexpected changes. No longer are the borderline offensive sexual rants of Arab on Radar noticeable. Granted, sexuality does shake its striking figure the listener’s way, but it’s much more subtle than, for instance, “nice girls enjoy my erection on the school bus”. It appears as though Paul has grown up a slight bit on the new EP Turbo Mattress – not that his more immature days weren’t thoroughly enjoyed by many.

Conventionality was never Arab on Radar’s strong suit, but Paul seems to have developed an appreciation for conformity since the band broke up in October of 2002. The Chinese Stars’ sound is to AoR what Hair Police might be to Low – well, maybe not that dramatic of a difference, but still. There are choruses. There are melodies. In fact, there is such a steady beat that you can dance in the security that you won’t be jeopardizing your Disco Stu status to some unforeseen shift in rhythm.

Eric Paul once said in an interview “(the) ‘math rock’ approach is simply masturbatory and un-spiritual”. Given that this was said during his involvement with Arab on Radar and not exactly recent, contradiction rears its ugly head at The Chinese Stars, who definitely have a “mathy” feel to them. Exhibiting from the get-go math-enriched guitar play and Craig Kureck’s own brand of “I really only need a bass drum and a snare drum to kick your ass” percussion, complexity might not be the first and foremost thing on their minds, but it definitely plays a part. As far as dissonance goes, Paul Vieira is quite adept at supplying the necessary edge required to be a Skin Graft recording artist. The bassist Rick Ivan Pelletier, formerly of the esteemed Six Finger Satellite, injects exactly the right amount of dance into his bass lines, not arrhythmic, but also not the same riff that dance-punk bands have been passing around for the past few years.

Live, Eric Paul still has his immense stage presence, avoiding accuracy to embrace his schizophrenic dancing and tirades, and thankfully that energy has been captured on Turbo Mattress. As for the other band members, they do their part, but this is Paul’s show. Fortunately, despite multiple delays and issues with the Chinese star-shaped CD, the EP is finally out, complete with the assurance that Paul’s time off under the radar was not spent in vain.

By Andrew Sadowski

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