(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )
Ear of the Dragon
As an Asian-American myself, I speak without prejudice when I say that this "first-ever compilation album of Asian-American rock 'n' roll" makes no sense. What cultural subgroup, after all, has fewer defining characteristics than ours, comprised as we are of the most thoroughly Americanized of America's adopted peoples?
Aside from Shonen Knife (who aren't included here as they're Asian-Asians) few if any rock bands with Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, or Hawaiian members sound significantly different from the average white band, the nineteen bands on this album included. From aMINIATURE's harsh blend of U2 and the Clash to Dolomite's evocation of Nick Drake, these sons of Oriental immigrants sound like suspiciously like descendants of pale Europeans.
The daughters offer some respite. Yanti Arifin sings "Losing My Cool" like Chryssie Hynde auditioning for the Waitresses, and Cub's Robynn Iwata sings "Secret Nothing" like someone who's spent lots of quality time under the boardwalk. But that still leaves fifteen bands, ranging from the wretched (J. Church, David Pajo Band) to the merely O.K. Lo-fi sound, low-flying melodies, and an uncanny resemblance to the boring parts of Urgh! A Music War predominate.