Today, we want to talk about PC gone crazy. Right here in River City – Portland, Oregon. The craziness, of course, is from Washington DC.
The Slants, a group of Asian-American musicians (Taiwanese-Chinese, Vietnamese, possibly Japanese and Korean) who call their music Chinatown Dance Rock, could also be called players of indie rock, if “indie” means industrial. The first video we watched was set in a dystopian, abandoned warehouse or factory.
Another video evokes what we would call Asian SteamPunk. They pay tribute to their Asian background in many, many ways, including showing martial arts.
That’s not what attracted our attention, though. We heard about their battle with the national bureaucracy on the radio. Battle? Yep. A bureaucrat/attorney there would not approve their band’s name because it might offend Asians!
In their About section, we see that their “Yellow Album could be a natural progression from either 2010′s Pageantry or their 2007 debut Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts. Musically, it draws from the wider synthesizer-driven palette of the first album, while retaining the harder hitting rock sounds of the second.”
In addition to fundraising for the tsunami relief effort in Japan, they got involved in “a fight with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that made headlines across both legal blogs and Asian culture outlets,” that section says.
“We were pulled into an unexpected struggle,” explains founder, [spokesman], and bassist Simon Young. “A touring band has enough to worry about, let alone an international disaster involving friends and family or dealing with a legal battle against the United States government.”
The trademark battle was sparked by a government attorney’s claim that the band’s name was disparaging to Asians. “It was like banging our head against the wall, trying to convince someone that we were not offensive to ourselves, that the community was in overwhelming support of our band.”
The album title itself was birthed in a more playful approach to the idea of ethnic pride. “We’ve actually been sitting on the idea for a few years,” says [band member Aron] Moxley. “The Beatles had The White Album, Metallica and Jay Z had The Black Album, so we wanted to have The Yellow Album.”
The juxtaposition of a tongue-in-cheek album title and some deeply serious songs reflect a band who can still embrace tragedy with a punk rock swagger [and humor].
The great thing about the Asians IFO knows is that they refuse to accept the title of Victim, no matter who wants to spray it on them. Their humor springs out of their pain.