Solstice by Qi

1. Starmeow Rock
2. Make Love Song
3. Space Reptile
4. Happy Memory
5. Green Army
6. Today is Another Day
7. (My Only) Mona Lisa
9. What Do You Want From Me?

From Zack’s unintelligible Kurt Cobain-esque vocals, Manx’s wild pounding drums and the wet, slipper sound mixing (made even wetter on the very David Bowie mixed Space Reptile); Qi’s debut album Solstice is a fast-paced Glam Rock sexual romp not inspired by the 80s, but from the 80s. Every track is loud, every track has a virtuosic guitar solo (courtesy of Rob and Antonin), every track has a catchy melodic hook (sung by the inimitable Zack Tsang) and lots of overt sexual references.

From the first track Starmeow Rock to the march-like Green Army, relatively more narrative and slightly slower (My Only) Mona Lisa and the finale What Do You Want From Me? The band has more than enough Qi to keep the audience entertained (and enough for whatever happens after the show).

This short LP of just 37-minute album is the perfect length for an album with this much drive. Longer and you risk listeners getting fatigue, shorter and you just don’t fit enough. However, I wonder whether the length was more of a practical consideration. You see, Solstice was released on vinyl only, which even with modern technology, doesn’t have the same memory capacity of a CD or an online release; considering the type of music on Solstice, it’s clear what sort of audience Qi is going for.

There’s a generational gap in Hong Kong’s English music scene. The older generation, love rock. Loud, grungy, heavily mixed rock with a side of glam and glitter. Nirvana, Guns and Roses, David Bowie and Mick Jagger (all of which Qi takes clear nods to) are favourites. The younger generation meanwhile seem to prefer folk, bossa-nova and punk. Is it a case of nostalgia and wanting to relive a simpler time? Do middle-aged, largely white crowds gather on a Friday evening in Wanchai for the adrenaline that a very mosh-pitable album full of sex and sparkles like Solstice gives them? Rhetorical question – if it works for your audience it works, and Solstice definitely works for that sort of vinyl-only audience.

Past the foreplay now and onto the main course. The songs are catchy, full of musical creativity and live energy. The inlay of their album makes it clearly known that there were ‘Zero instrumental overdubs or patches’ though ‘Additional vocals [were] recorded a few days later’. Can’t blame them, sing through the album once and Zack’s voice must’ve needed at least a week to recover. This however does mean that Solstice is, in terms of performance, less clean. You know that feeling when your guitarist and drummer don’t quite catch a time change so the riff is a bit off? You know how you hope the audience don’t pick up on that (oh shit how did you mess that up live?!) I picked up on that (wink).

In terms of lyrics however, I don’t like to make direct critical statements but the lyrics are very good. They take all the tropes of 80s glam and shove them all into the album: getting horny, needing rock music to live, anarchism, running away from your abusive parents and starting a band, lizards in space – anything 80s and everything 80s. Sometimes, one song will have multiple clichés at a time even if it doesn’t make sense. Case in point, Green Army, which is a perfectly fine catchy rock song, is about the underbelly of society not being heard. But the album, in general, is about sex. We know this because the opening song Starmeow Rock, again a very catchy song with a great hook, has the lines “Here you go /I wanna know/ The inside of you, baby” (Is Starmeow a euphemism for pussy out of this world? Is that why Space Reptile is about interstellar sex?). How do you have an album all about sex, but include this one track on criticizing society? You include the line “The city is burning …. with desire”.

I get it, it’s Glam Rock, you’ve got to have some sex. The whole of David Bowie and Freddy Mercury’s catalogue is about sex. Paul McCartney asked to have sex in the middle of the bloody highway on The White Album. But David Bowie also wrote China Girl and we’re not about to pretend that was a good idea.

Then again, the audience that Qi is going for aren’t sitting around in armchairs quietly contemplating the deep poetry of Zack Tsang; they’re out there feeling the band’s raw energy. When you’re out listening to a rock band on a Friday night, you’re not there to listen to think about the mysteries of the universe (and whether we can have sex in the “zero gravity interstellar orgy machine” – Space Reptile is a trip), you’re there to move, you’re there to let go, you’re there to drive yourself along with the guitars and drums.

Energy that’s what Solstice has. Energy, Sex and Fun – after all that’s what a good night at a live music rock bar is all about isn’t it?
– Cyril Ma
Solstice on vinyl is available (limited edition only) from Vintage Vinyl HK
or listen at Bandcamp.

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