Jason and I were fortunate enough last year to have press passes to the Cornerstone Festival, and Fine China was the first chance to abuse our privileges. We went backstage to watch the show, snapping photos and brushing elbows with music journalism’s best.
As far as I knew, Fine China was just a cool rock band I’d heard on various tracks on Velvet Blue Music samplers. I was taken aback when I saw them arrive sporting white jean jackets, Guess jeans, and teased hair. As I found out later while interviewing the band in their Mercedes, not only are they pretty, but they also have great musical taste. Sitting there, listening to the Smiths as rain fell outside, I learned of their early ’80s influences, which are quite obvious on their Tooth & Nail debut, When The World Sings.
If New Order would have had more sensual, seductive vocals there wouldn’t be much separating them from Fine China. The pop-filled love songs are full of Johnny Marr-esque riffs, lively bass lines, and Devo-esque synths. The mere three-to-four minute long songs are backed by poppy, sometimes electronic, percussion resulting in songs so happy-go-lucky and energetic it’s only right to sing along and bob your head. Though downbeat at times, the music never quite reaches the depressing realm that The Cure inhabit. The songs fall in the verse-chorus-verse pattern in its purest and catchiest form.
The catchiest of them all is “Labor Saving Device” (Editor: For the longest time, we thought the chorus was “Save me Jeebus,” which would’ve been an awesome Simpsons reference. But it’s still a great song). “I Dropped a Bomb on Your Heart” is one of the dreamier songs and not your typical break-up song: the point of view is actually taken from the guilty youth who dropped the John Cusak on his/her significant other.
In terms of songwriting influences, Ronnie Martin (Joy Electric) obviously had his impact on the title track. The electronic beats and spacey, floating keys that are Martin’s trademarks are evident throughout the track. Overall, the synthwork found throughout the entire album is very reminiscent of Martin’s oeuvre. In other words, it’s quality material.
A little trivia: Martin was actually going to sign Fine China to his Plastiq Musiq label, but then felt it would be more beneficial to Fine China to be on Tooth & Nail. Either way, When The World Sings is a synthpop masterpiece. Aching ’80s love songs are back with Fine China and I’m left frantically searching for my copy of Thompson Twins’ “If You Were Here.”
Written by Nolan Shigley.