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Battle Cattle takes the stage one last time
By Brian Offenther

Like a well-tuned factory, another week in Shanghai has brought the local music community an identical result: Another band has called it quits.

Shanghai dance punk band Battle Cattle has quietly announced Saturday will be its last show. The show, titled “Work(ed) in a Factory,” will be held at rock club Harley’s with an entrance fee of 30 yuan (US$4.92).

The two opening bands will be garage rockers Naohai and folk/electronica group Iamalam (usually stylized “iAmalam”).

The show doubles as a going-away party for Battle Cattle singer/guitarist Alex. His stinging guitar led the band throughout its run, buoyed by the lithe, bouncing rhythms of bassist Laurent. Drummer Franck was the newest member of the trio, laying down rapid jackhammer beats.

The band has been largely inactive over the past few months. Still, their official loss from the music community comes as a second blow after last week saw the retirement of fellow hard rock band Death to Giants.

Battle Cattle first made its presence at monthly garage rock showcases Trash A Go-Go in 2011 (note that the columnist was an organizer of Trash A Go-Go).

Their long, sweaty performances made them a highlight, even with their explicitly anachronistic dance rhythms.

Despite his title as lead singer, Alex would frequently perform with his back to the audience, his back curled over his guitar like a question mark, his feet stomping like pistons.

The three French expats had a sound that is most reminiscent of late 1970s/early 1980s British dance punk. Combining the sensibility and pacing of punk rock with the precision and rhythmic pulse of disco, Battle Cattle’s music often expresses the manic chatter of the city.

Like perhaps the seminal band of this style, Gang of Four, who visited Shanghai late last year, this was emphasized with industrial imagery and the sanitized language of the corporate workforce.

Like the noise rock emanating from Beijing that evokes the smog and uncertainty of that city, in many ways Battle Cattle reflects the psyche of Shanghai. Shanghai, a city with a heavier club music influence.

Or, with the imminent passing of the band, we can say it could.

The Shanghai music scene has been smarting lately and this space has resembled more of an obituary than an arts column of late. Already with a dearth of music acts, this summer will see two of Shanghai’s best drummers leaving town (look for those stories in future columns).

More so, even with the active bands around, not one seems to have captured a Shanghai sound, something to call its own. Perhaps that’s wrong, and it’s the latest top-40 club music that can be found in the nightclubs. I hope not, though, for the sake of my ears — and the city’s soul.

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