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[Music Monday]: Indie Right Round

A good ol' fashioned indie rock slam session featuring singer Emma Pollock of The Delgados, Mogwai, Bis, Holy Mountain, Handoogies
By Mar 23, 2015 Nightlife
Music Monday is a weekly SmartShanghai column, serving up songs from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please contact us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.

Emma Pollock from The Delgados performs at Yuyintang on Friday

Spring has sprung my friends and you have to admit it feels pretty damn good. Even though I’m sure endless rain is just around the corner, it was hard to hold a frown with last weekend’s nice weather. Even local comment celebrity ‘Handoogies’ would have to agree Shanghai was in full swing over our favorite equinox.

For those of you who don’t know, Handoogies has been cutting through the BS in Shanghai’s restaurant, bar, and travel scene since 2007. Saving us from ourselves on a daily basis, (and you’re welcome). My mental image of Handoogies is something along the lines of an expat version of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, but most likely he is just an average American family man with some things on his mind. Right now I’m going to pay tribute to some of the classic Handooogies quotes from the past 5 years. I’m sure he’ll dub this as “Worst Smart Shanghai Article Ever”. 

Handoogies' Deep Thoughts

1. Article: [Outbound]: Zhangjiajie

“Like all tourist attractions I've been to in China, the local peasants ruin the experience.

2. Wire Post: Weekend Recap - Assault Rifles and Club Closings

“This gave me a headache to read.”

3. Wire Post: Gay Bars Try To Grab The Bear Market After BoBos Closes

“I'm sorry but I don't believe Taiwanese bears exist at all. Very few Asian gays can even qualify as a bear; Otter? maybe. Not a bear.”

4. Article: [The Brunch List]: April '13

“'Day-drunk laowai' should be printed on t-shirts for all those shameless buggers on Yongkang rd.”

5. Wire Post: Justin Bieber to Make Appearance at S2

“Table booked! Can't wait to throw a vodka bottle at his lesbo head!”

6. Article: City Lights: The Raw and the Cooked

"Just another German trying to imitate Andreas Gursky's work IMO"

And finally, drum roll please....

Wire Post: Shelter Anniversary Tonight, Featuring 24 million DJs

"When I read that 24 million DJs in one place my first reaction was how apt a small nuclear bomb would be."

Alright let’s get back to the work at hand. Over the past few weeks Music Monday has focused on mostly experimental doom metal, hardcore punk, and obscure African DJ gigs to name a few. Well today we are bringing it back to the basics with a feature on indie rock legend Emma Pollock from the Delgados coming to Yuyintang this Friday. For those of you unaware, The Delgados were one of those classic, loveable 90’s bands with dreampop DIY hearts of gold. They also started an independent record label Chemikal Underground with a focus on fellow Scottish acts. Chemikal Underground turned out to be one of the most important labels in the short history of indie rock. Let us share some music from Emma Pollock along with my top five Chemikal Underground bands from our beloved Scots that Rock.

But, if you’re just itching to get down on the club scene to pay for overpriced drinks and be ignored by pretty girls then here are some solid gigs this week. Friday night Santo Chino revises his monthly vinyl party at Dada with what looks to be a Leather Daddy theme. Also on Friday is highly respected Japanese hip hop MC ShingO2 is doing a tribute to Nujabes. Then on Saturday the VOID crew brings in a great Live PA booking with the Horrorist laying down a sweet EBM set that only fat Goths smoking behind the bleachers could truly enjoy. 

Emma Pollock

Although Emma Pollock was born in Perth, Australia she was raised in the very Scottish hamlet of Castle Douglas before moving to Glasgow for university. Forming out of the ashes of the band Bubblegum came the Delgados which was comprised of Pollock on vocals, Paul Savage on drums, Alun Woodward on guitar / vocals, and Stewart Henderson on bass. While perhaps unknown to general fans of rock or pop outside of the UK, if you follow indie rock then you’ll most certainly know the Delgados story. The band was a noise rock outfit before perfecting a more polished, classic indie pop sound that was popular throughout the late '90s and '00s.

Now the term indie rock is just a loose description of a genre of music that may or may not be on an independent label. However, back in the '90s we used to "believe in stuff", and spitting in the face of corporate music giants was a rite of passage. No one embodied this more than the Delgados who formed the label Chemikal Underground initially to just release their own music but quickly branched out to supporting fellow Scottish acts. The label soon became one of the most influential in the world. Chemikal Undergound co-founder Emma Pollock remains active in the label, which her last album The Law of Large Numbers was released on. After splitting with the Delgados in 2005 she released her first solo project on the influential 4AD label, which was well received.

Along with her solo work Pollock is also a member of the Burns Unit, an eight-piece collaborative super group with a rotating cast such as King Creosote and Karine Polwart. Then even more recently Pollock contributed to the Fruit Tree Foundation, which puts on music events in support of the Mental Health Foundation. Scottish Mike from the band XXYY has helped organize this tour and gathered a group of local musicians to be Pollock’s backing band which should be an extra treat. This Friday’s Yuyintang gig is for sure the pick of the week and I don’t want to hear about any complaining about the 100rmb cover. I know you pay that for your Sherpa’s lunch jerk face.

Emma Pollock – "Adrenaline" 

Emma Pollock – "The Loop"

Now let's get into some of the bands that came out on Chemikal Underground.


Alright let’s kick off this Chemikal Underground Scottish showcase with none other than Mogwai! Yes, Emma Pollock’s indie label is responsible for launching one of the most influential post-rock bands of all time. A band that has literally ravaged our great red nation. Formed around the same time as the Delgados, Mogwai’s first album Young Team helped the label gain notoriety, reaching number 75 on the UK album charts. While moving onto bigger pastures Mogwai has always been tied into the Chemikal Underground scene and when the post-rock legends graced Shanghai’s Mao Livehouse stage it was one for the history books. Let’s listen to the track “Summer”, one of my favorite songs of all time.

Mogwai – "Summer"

Arab Strap

Another widely respected Scottish indie rock band that got their start on Chemikal Underground Records is none other than Arab Strap. Their debut release of The Weekend Never Starts Round Here came out in 1996, and throughout their 10+ years active they remained with the label. Influenced by artists such as Smog and Will Oldham, the band collaborated with the legendary Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian on their second release Philophobia. However, when that same year Belle and Sebastian released an album titled Boy with the Arab Strap in honor of the band, members Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton were less than pleased. In 2006 Arab Strap split up, leaving on a high note only to reform a few times later for one off gigs. 

Arab Strap  - "Cherubs"


Bis released a 7” titled Disco Nation 45, which was Chemikal Underground’s second stab at vinyl and first non–Delgados effort. That same year the band played on BBC’s Top of the Pops with their song "Kandy Pop", which was on the EP Secret Vampire Soundtrack, also on Chemikal Underground. The lo-fi pioneers might be remembered most from their song on the closing credits of The Powerpuff Girls cartoon series, which lead them to sell over 100,000 albums in Japan. While not everyone’s cup of tea Bis’s contribution to labels such as Lookout Records, Grand Royal, and spinART will forever bookmark them in DIY rock history.

Bis – Kandy Pop

Holy Mountain

A more recent addition to Chemikal Underground lineup is Glasgow based psych-rock band Holy Mountain. Not to be confused with the Sleep album Holy Mountain, or the prolific psych label Holy Mountain, or the insane 1973 surreal film by the same name, Glasgow’s Holy Mountain is an uncompromising hard rock outfit that could go toe to toe with any dirtbag band from San Francisco to Dusseldorf. Their latest album on Chemikal Underground released just last year moved into more of a doom / stoner rock vibe that’s just alright with this guy.

From what I hear, XXYY front man Mike Herd is looking to bring over more acts from the seminal Scottish label and if so may I be the first to put Holy Mountain in the hat for consideration. Check out this track "Gunner" from their initial releases Earth Measures. 

Holy Mountain - "Gunner"

The Delgados

What Chemikal Underground roundup would be complete without sharing music from the Delgados themselves. With a large selection of gems to choose from I’m going to go ahead and share "All You Need is Hate" from their 2002 album titled, you guessed it, Hate. The world of indie rock owes the Delgados a world of credit for their contributions in supporting Scottish bands and keeping the DIY ethic alive so many years.

The Delgados – "All You Need Is Hate

Make sure to check out founding Delgados member Emma Pollock at Yuyintang this Friday. Just don’t forget to fill up on a plate of Haggis and chug some BrewDog beers before heading down. 


This column is written by DJ Sacco, who runs Uptown Records, Shanghai's dedicated vinyl shop. Ironically, they don't sell Mp3s or dabble in anything digital, instead they have 7" and 12", EPs and LPs from rock to electronic, rare pressings, DJ equipment and band merchandise. Find them in an old bomb shelter at 115 Pingwu Lu.



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  • ryry

    Cannae well wait for this show...should be a good one.

  • Danny_RedLion

    The caption under the top photo reads 'Emma Pollack'. Nothing against Poles but this is clearly wrong :P

  • Justin Fischer

    @Danny_RedLion, I see what you did there. Your comment is funnier than screen door on a submarine.

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