“This is a song about a table.”
It was probably the most unlikely song intro I’ve experienced (non-Cradle of Filth division). Singer/guitarist Bonkit then went on to explain that following an argument with his partner Jing Jing (also the band’s drummer), they later bought a table, an experience of which helped heal things. Or maybe it was the table that started it all? Forgive me, this gig was way back in July. But it was definitely something about a table, a fight, and a reconciliation. The point is, we all went from being startled at the audacity of announcing one has written a song about a piece of furniture to being completely charmed by the motivation and story behind it all. And so the night went, equal parts delightful surprises, easy laughter, and impassioned rock.
Well, here we are a few months later with Midnight Ping Pong’s debut EP, but there’s no witty banter to adapt to or sway the mood of the room. How does a band with great improvisational dexterity translate to the permanence of a recording?
No worries here. Beyond the winsome charisma of the band is a solid musical foundation. Frontman Bonkit has long since proven himself with prior stints in 包子虎 Bowz Tiger and 傷心欲絕 Wayne Is So Sad, among others. He takes the reins of 午夜乒乓 Midnight Ping Pong without breaking stride. All of the characteristic strengths one has come to expect from Bonkit - heartfelt solos, catchy melodies, nimble fingerings - are here.
And now he takes on the additional role of vocalist. How does that work out? Pretty well, in fact. I can’t report any stunning vocal agility, but any such tricks would be bizarre and out of place. Somewhat rough, it’s still expressive and tuneful enough to get the job done. Bonkit’s voice suits his music quite nicely.
As for the songs, things kick off with Sunset Dance, and a bit of a Pavement vibe. Alternating between English and Chinese, we get the saga of an individual struggling to follow his heart and stay on the right path with his lover. The music begins lightheartedly - kind of jangly and jazzy - but before long you realize you’re rocking out. It is a curious song, all these juxtapositions, the impassioned chorus and ba-da-ba-da scatting, the whole strangely charming thing. Welcome to the world of Midnight Ping Pong.
午夜的直球對決 is a rousing anthem, one that quickly swirls into a drunken tornado of a sing-a-long during the band’s live shows. That energy is quite ably captured here, as a bouncy bass and some driving guitars compete to propel the song over the top. Lyrically, it is another quest for truth - for honest relationships, for honest music - for a life of honest substance. Musically, it is a triple shot of espresso. This song kicks ass.
With Little Stories, Bonkit reprises one of his songs from the Bowz Tiger days, now rendered as a stirring, playful instrumental. It is always an exciting song in Bowz Tiger’s set, and remains a highlight in its new presentation. I can’t get enough of it, as my iTunes playlist verifies.
With 紅泥小火爐, we come full circle, arriving at the aforementioned “table song” and the story unfolds tenderly thanks to special guest ShuFan’s delicate violin. And what of that table? It was indeed a peacemaker table, facilitating an understanding that goes beyond words. The inclusion of a violin is unexpected, but not out of place. That an unconventional instrument (for this genre) sounds perfectly natural here on an indie rock band’s recording is proof of its appropriateness.
We can safely conclude after these 4 songs that Bonkit is a hardcore romantic. He reveals a deep yearning for truth & beauty and a sweetness that is almost heartbreaking. This is a good thing, and when put to music, a truly beautiful thing.
Now back to that earlier question of how well Midnight Ping Pong’s aesthetic is rendered in the studio: I feel the same energy and spirit as their live sets, just minus the rowdy ambience of the crowd trying to out-sing the band. EPs are always such a tease, especially when the music is so good. Midnight Ping Pong have one that makes me hungry for more - not just for myself but for the band and for the world. What a dream come true if mainstream media could play this on their radios and TVs and podcasts. These are the songs we all sing inside our hearts. The world needs to listen to itself to begin to find its peace. We can start with Midnight Ping Pong.
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