City of Heartbreak and Horror by Rustic



  1. Intro
  2. Living in the World of Fallacy
  3. Erotic Films
  4. Modern Love
  5. Girls Are Not Yours
  6. Poison Beauty
  7. Summer View
  8. Wild Woman
  9. Rock & Roll for Money & Sex
  10. A Dreamland for You and Me
  11. Poison Beauty (Remix)

It’s been one hell of a journey for Rustic– small-town boys from China, making it big in the global metropolis by becoming (unanimously chosen, apparently) winners of the GBOB 2009 world finals. Their weapon was rock ‘n’ roll, and scarcely did they fail to wield it. But one may wonder – what is about their music that made them better than every other participating band from all over the world that year? Considering that theirs is, essentially, a chronologically regressive style (hearkening back to the early 80s, to be precise) without much embellishment or experimentation, the question begins to nag.

A big part of it is certainly their live show – like any good rock band should be, they are thrilling to watch, music aside. Synchronised duck walks, wild behaviour, innuendo, clothes that hurt your eyes but you can’t look away, the fact that the three of them look like they come from completely disconnected musical scenes and the music gelling despite that…They have lots going for them in that respect.

But, if the live act is the weapon, then the music is the ammo – ‘cause it’s what hits you (duh). Theirs is a curious-yet-unsurprising mix of sounds – broadly speaking, it can be classified as 80s hardcore (right as it was moving away from punk) mixed with early glam metal (remember when Mötley Crüe was fun, and sounded fresh? The sound had freshly branched from 70s pop-metal/glitter-rock and had not yet become the overly processed wanky cesspool of talentless wannabes who could press a couple of pedals and sing high-pitched). Despite these styles being constantly at odds during their development, they are essentially half-brothers and Rustic uses this relation to their advantage. Catchy riffs and non-wanky noodling, a pace that is nearly always frenetic, a constant feel-good sound and shuffling rhythms combine to underscore the FUN in their style. Drummer Li Fan sounds like NOFX’s Erik Sandin (who himself sounds like a cross between Rat Scabies and Don Bolles). Bassist Ricky Sixx plays very melodically, occasionally even stepping into the forefront to do some cool runs, much like Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley. Singer/guitarist Li Yan (aka Lucifer) combines the sunny indolence of Scott Kempner (Dictators/Del-Lords) with the ability to compose awesome yet brief spiralling riffs like Steve Clark (Def Leppard). Basically, they keep each other good musical company, and that’s why they sound awesome (at least, to me).

This style, however, is somewhat closed-off and there’s not much versatility; you can call that either monotony or consistency depending on how you look at it. The instrumentation is kept largely simple and there’s a real no-nonsense rock vibe you get from them, which someone negatively disposed to them may get bored with. Lyrically there’s not much depth to be had (although, in their defence, it’s possible I’m just not getting it, thanks to Lucifer’s garbled vocals) and the subject matter is glam-metal cheese incarnate. They also, admittedly, tend to sound like a Sex Pistols cover band that’s just writing its own songs to escape copyright infringements. It’s safe to say, I think, that if you’re not into first-wave glam OR hardcore punk, you most probably won’t like this album (you may actually find it impossible to sit through). And since I do think this album does a good job of representing Rustic’s songs, you probably won’t like them either. BUT – if this is your preferred sonic territory, City of Heartbreak and Horror is an album you should definitely get your ears on.

My picks for best tracks would be Modern Love and A Dreamland… – they’re perfectly balanced between their influences, have very singable choruses, and with the cymbals sounding beautifully tinny (like they used to do) they do the job of setting the rock-‘n’-roll mood without overdoing it. These songs don’t overstay their welcome by even a second, and are winkingly faux-grandiose compositions, making them self-contained feel-good gems. They seem to like opening with deceptive overtures before they start the song itself and Rock ‘n’ Roll… opens with a bit that sounds like Iron Maiden interpreted by the Dead Kennedys (!), but morphs suddenly into a Crüe song. Girls Are Not Yours, I think, is the quintessential Rustic song – a sing-along chorus that’s (another) Crüe reference, a winding riff, chugging rhythm and some cool solos.

Some songs just last too long, though, and it feels like they run out of things to say, like on Wild Woman; even the clarinet can’t save it (random fact: guess who else plays the clarinet in rock songs….Patti Smith!!). There are a couple of contenders for shameless filler – Erotic Films and Poison Beauty. They really are nothing-songs, and the latter is actually rather annoyingly placed between two faster (and better) songs, holding up the album. I especially can’t tell why it deserved a remix that adds nothing, when the album could’ve ended on a high with Dreamland. But, that’s the baffling world of music for you.

Overall, it is an accurate representation of the band’s sound, and whether you love, like or hate them, Rustic is about fun. And fun this album certainly is – a terrific light listen. But, pushed for a choice – go see them live. The visual element adds a punch that could knock anyone out.

— Shashwati Kala


Want to know more about Rustic? Visit their official pages on:




Here’s an interview we did with them almost exactly a year ago: Rustically Yours.


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