Racing for our Lives by Qi

1. Racing For Your Life
2. Mona Lisa
3. Hold on to Feeling

“Dead or alive, the fates will decide” seems like an appropriate mantra if you’re going to be racing around on a motorcycle. To properly enjoy endangering your own life, embracing the evergreen rock-n-roll injunction to stop worrying and let destiny do its thing, damn the consequences, is essential.

Thus, the refrain from Racing for Your Life, the opening track from Hong Kong-based Qi’s new EP Racing for Our Lives, sets the tone for what we’re doing here: narratives of escape, of rescue, and of sometimes being the one left behind, and the limits of our control over the outcome, all carried along by confident, hook-heavy, 90s-inflected rock.

Racing for Your Life seems to tip its hat to Bon Jovi in the dead-or-alive lyrics as well as the opening guitar licks, but they quickly give way to a propulsive beat, power chords and vocals suggesting that the best way to ensure you make it from this moment to the next is to keep your foot firmly on the gas. This would be the track our mysterious motorcycle man from the cover art (lead singer and semi-pro racer Zack?) will be humming as he cracks down his visor and disappears over a hundred horizons to find out what indeed the fates have in store for him.

After some initial riff-trading over tricky Copeland-esque rhythms, Mona Lisa’s opening lyrics are heard as though through an old rotary telephone, adding to the sense of a hasty, surreptitious rescue for a damsel in (extreme) distress, deep in the murky guts of a foreboding vision of Hong Kong. An evocative, evolving guitar cuts through several sections, tying the middle together. It’s a hopeful song, but the central question of whether love is enough to overcome dreadful circumstances is left open.

Closer Hold on to Feeling, meanwhile, is a tribute to the life-affirming power of live music (specifically at legendary Hong Kong venue The Wanch). Played in an unhurried 6/8 (think Aerosmith’s “Crazy”) the wistful power-ballad builds to a joyous chorus, lifted by the warm tones of an organ and perfectly calibrated to have a roomful of revelers rocking back and forth, singing along. (HOTF is the type of instantly familiar song you’d find yourself joining in on by the second chorus, the very first time you hear it.) It’s easy to imagine, live, the guitar solos at the end being allowed to stretch out indefinitely, Free Bird-style, while the entire bar ignores a sound guy hopelessly gesturing to wrap it up. Zack, whose commanding, multi-register vibrato shines throughout the EP, really gets to wail here, especially that one note (you’ll know it when you hear it) which he pins to the end of the EP with the power and precision of a final, triumphant F.U. to any remaining doubters.

This is the first of several planned releases this year for Qi. In a time when public performances have been all but forbidden, they’ve been crafting music that is ideally meant to be played live, loud, and among friends. Look forward to marking the beginning of our shared return to some kind of normalcy in an un-shuttered livehouse near you, with Qi reminding everyone what freedom feels like at maximum volume. Until then, you’ll have to just stick your earbuds in, squint into the distance, and pretend you’re also a really cool motorcycle guy with an indifferent attitude towards imminent danger.
This EP is available on Bandcamp.

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