Carsick Cars' 3

Read our review and listen to the Beijing trio's new album in full

In 2007, Carsick Cars supported Sonic Youth in Europe and released their eponymous debut album, announcing themselves as one of the most important bands in China. At the time the trio – Zhang Shouwang, Li Weisi and Li Qing – were at the epicentre of a Beijing underground music scene that was garnering considerable international attention and their fuzzed-up noise-rock tracks, drawing heavily on the sound of Thurston Moore and co, became anthems for a generation of Chinese gig goers. 

Seven years later and, despite a number of line-up changes (Zhang is now the sole remaining founding member) and a slightly underwhelming second album – 2010’s You Can Listen, You Can Talk – Carsick Cars remain one of the biggest bands in the country and China’s best-known rock export. Add in the four-year wait since their last album proper and to call their new Maybe Mars-backed LP a highly anticipated release is an understatement. 

Simply entitled 3, for the most part the album jettisons the swirling guitar waves that saw tracks on the band’s previous efforts regularly spiral into the best part of ten minutes in favour of a slicker, punchier approach. Following infectiously jangly opener ‘Wild Grass’, excellent instrumental track ‘The Best VPN So Far’ seems set to mushroom into a classic lengthy Carsick Cars exploration of sweeping static only to fade out before reaching the five minute mark. 

These two tracks set the tone for the rest of the album, with Zhang and bassist He Fan seemingly content to leave their more experimental, electronic tendencies to their respective side projects, White+ and Deadly Cradle Death. Parts of the record do hint at the sound found on White+'s excellent debut album, but in general 3 presents a far more streamlined sound. Throughout, the album is tight, well produced and many of the tracks seem primed to become bounce-around live favourites in the vein of ‘Mogu’ or ‘Zhong Nan Hai’. 

There are moments where you wish the band would unshackle themselves running time-wise, but the closest offering is the inclusion of a longer version ‘Wei Cheng’ – and that’s still an irrepressibly catchy pop song. 3 is far from revolutionary, but it’s a solidly likeable rock album and next month’s Shanghai release show (on March 7) is one not be missed.  

Carsick Cars will release 3 in Shanghai on Friday 7 March.