Hang on the Box's 'Yellow Banana'
Reviewed by SIMON BARTZ/The Japan Times: Apr. 11, 2001
All-girl Beijing band Hang on the Box is one of the few punk rock bands right now who literally wear their credentials on their sleeves, dressing the part as well as playing the music. They wouldn't look out of place in 1976 London. It's all a bit naff, you might think. But remarkably, Hang on the Box's debut album, "Yellow Banana," is the freshest record I've heard this year.Many "punk" bands lose their way when trying to update the sound by incorporating metal, rap, electronica or what have you. Hang on the Box hasn't spent any time worrying about such things; the result is damn good tunes. There's not a single duff track here. And they have a sense of humor. Only a punk-rock genius can come up with: "Kill your belly/Kill my belly/Kiss your belly/Kiss my belly/Keep your belly/Keep my belly/F**k you, I don't need you!/Ooooooo," while cowbells clatter in the background and one of the girls hums kazoolike. It's one minute, 17 seconds of pure brilliance. The next track, "Bitch," is a two-minute hypnotic buzzing guitar motif and the three lines keep up the lyrical abrasiveness: "If you see me do you what you want/Don't follow me, do you what you want/You are f**king dirty bitch."One song sounds like Breeders, another like Elastica, another a lo-fi ballad with fuzzed-up Hawaiian guitars. But, apart from the wacky touches, the most vital aspect of Hang on the Box is brilliant melodies. Beijing may have outlawed Falun Gong's slow-movement hand motions, but thank Buddha they haven't infiltrated Hang on the Box's mosh pits.
HANG ON THE BOX: a Beijing all-girl punk band
~Their story and punk scene in Beijing ~
by Audrey Kimura BENTEN Label
When I visited Beijing for the first time, the very first place the members of Hang On The Box took me was a strip of road where all the Bootleg stores and other stores that sell damaged imported products were gathered. I realized that this place and the internet were their main source for information. And after passing the strip, there were the remains of where the legendary punk club "Scream" once stood. Now the sign on the building and the owner of the store is different, but the disorderly scribble of various band names on the wall is a reminder of back then.
When "Scream" first opened in April 1998, as the very first underground club in China, it became a fortress for punk groups from all over the world over night, including Western groups like Rancid and NOFX, journalists from all across the world, and students. It provided crucial information not only for music, but for fashion as well, and effected the Chinese fashion and music in a major way. Hang On The Box came together when classmates Wang Yue and Yilina met Yang Fan in a Bootleg store when Yang Fan approached the two for a cigarette. (The band name doesn't really mean anything, but apparently Irina who's from Mongolia had a dream, where god said to her that if she were to form a band, the name of the band must be Hang On The Box) Not having practiced once, they announced that they where the only all-girl punk band in Beijing at their first performance at this punk Mecca and made a live debut. With their non-existent skills and only their punk attitude, they received a storm of booing, laughter, and violent words, but this is when they decided to become the best punk band only possible by girls.(The youngest member of HOTB,ShenJing(D.) joined the band in 1999 when she was sixteen.Until then Wang Yue was playing guitar and Yang Fan was a drummer.)
After only being open for a year, "Scream" had already delivered several bands to the world, of which most were formed by first-generation under the single-sibling system in China. Representing these bands include "69", a revolutionary hard-core band, "Anarchy Boys", an Oi-Punk band, " Reflector " from the melo-core genre, and "Brain Failure" representing Ska Punk.
This was a group of kids who called themselves "the losers of Beijing", and lived their lives their own way, which soon became known the punk community as the "Wuliao Contingent". After "Scream" closed, the owner of the club started a record label called Scream Records , and produced a compilation album called Wuliao Contingent in August 1999. This was a double-disk compilation of four bands mentioned above. After the release of Wuliao Contingent, the underground punk scene and the name of the four bands spread all over China, and completely changed the trends and the music scene that dominated China which was mostly hard rock based until then.
he hero's that did all this are still in their early 20s today and are still going strong. In particular, the leader of the band "Brain Failure", Xiao Rong, is a critical force in the Chinese punk scene, constantly challenging the limit of punk and it's audiences. Hang On The Box, once a target of laughter, is now active all over the world, and has become a new wave in the Chinese music scene. I remember Wang Yue cried and said " It's true our dream come true!" when we made the contract of HOTB CD release and Japan tour ( Wild Wacky Party Asia ) 2 years ago. Then we did the US tour( Beijing Invation:Jet Set tour 03 ) this year March as we planned. Now HOTB 1st CD released from Cherry Red/arrivederci baby! in Europe on Oct. 16th 2003.
It's been three years since I first went to Beijing to see Hang On The Box. I've seen and become familiar with numerous other Chinese bands since then. However, I can say that Hang On The Box is a band that definitely has the most punk attitude and mentality. From a perspective of someone like me who grew up in Japan where women are allowed more freedom compared to China, I cannot imagine how tough it must have been, and perhaps still is to form an all-girl band and be openly active in a extremely male-dominated society.
I've gained tremendous energy from their sound and Wang Yue's overflowing, emotional lyrics only possible by a girl like her. Hang On The Box is still mainly active in China, but their head quarters(Record Label and Management) are now based in Japan. They are slowly but surely expanding their activities outside of Asia as well.