China Crisis is a band that these days only of people of a certain age – often already with grandchildren – remember. It’s the temporal equivalent of my grandfather telling me about Glen Miller. The ones that do remember them are usually those slightly nerdish fellows that were aware what was going around in the nether-regions of the charts: China Crisis’ most successful single in the UK was the moody ‘Wishful thinking’, peaking at number 9.
Their first three albums nevertheless all sold enough for two gold and a silver disc. Who would have thought. I never really followed them or got into them as a young person, but once I turned old and my body made the natural, genetic progression to Steely Dan devotee, my overall taste in music, sensitised by The Dan, changed.
When Walter Becker died, I looked up his Wikipedia entry and was surprised that he had produced more than Steely Dan and Donald Fagen: two of China Crisis’s albums were on that list. That sounded intriguing: a mix of Becker’s perfectionist approach to studio production and his peculiar musical signatures mixed with with the Liverpudlian spirit of China Crisis seemed an interesting mix, and indeed: ‘Flaunt the imperfection‘ is one of the best produced and (more importantly) beautiful albums I had heard in quite some time. The rest of their back catalogue from the eighties and nineties is not quite as stunning as ‘Flaunt the imperfection’ though still contains some beautiful songs. It’s nevertheless their 2015 album ‘Autumn in the Neighbourhood’ which is their crowning glory: crowdfunded via the now bankrupt Pledgemusic, its production is impossibly polished, layered and sound more like a Steely Dan album than anything else. Musically it sounds like the Becker-led ‘Flaunt the imperfection’, plus the odd steel guitar (which, btw, does nothing to ruin the moment as it normally would). Just more melancholic. Both musically and lyrically it seems the two remaining members of China Crisis are setting themselves an epitaph and are looking to the future with trepidation and a degree of resignation.
It’s nevertheless melancholy of the finest vintage and I can only urge you buy it.
P.S. Gary and/or Eddie if you read this: the best girlfriend and I think that Autumn in the Neighbourhood’s album cover is depicting Bonn in the 1960s. Please confirm.