China Drum's time releasing records was sadly short lived. they released only TWO albums and various EPs and Singles during the early 1990s. However, they are one of those lost bands that should have reached a wider audience. Full of passion, humour and great tunes. They came from Newcastle, played a blend of high energy punk with an alternative edge (while British fans looked across the sea to Green Day for their pop-punk fix) and even toured Bosnia when it was probably unsafe to do so. Oh yes, and the Drummer was the Lead Singer (and he still did it live in the early days).
Imagine Therapy? circa Screamager, but a little less Metal. Or Leatherface with less raw vocals. Or a better version of Joyrider. As they said at the time (on the electric version of 'Meaning' , Barrier import version): "It's Punk Rock Son".
Quite honestly, I would recommend every China Drum B side before their second album. They are all of a similar style and quality to Goosefair. If not better.
Early releases and first album B sides:
The first release has: an early version of Simple, On My Way and an electric version of Meaning (these versions of Simple and Meaning were later issued on the Import 6 track version of the Barrier EP) The version of Biscuit Barrel on this import Is acoustic (but fades out at the end and misses the sample).
The Great Fire CD Single has the none album track 'Great Fire', an acoustic version of Biscuit Barrel, a repeat of the early version of Meaning and a very early live version of Down By The River. I also have the exact same 4 track EP as both a standard CD single and as a fold out paper sleeve with lyrics.
The Barrier EP has the non-album tracks barrier, Brain, One Way Down and a live version of Sleazeball. This was my first exposure to China Drum - and I was hooked!
The Fall Into Place EP has an early version of Fall Into Place, the early version of Simple and On My Way (from the first release) plus a live version of Barrier.
The 2 track Cd single of Pictures features an acoustic version of Last Chance (this is a very rare CD and the sleeve does not say that it is an acoustic version).
Can't Stop These Things has a Kate Bush cover: a brilliant version of Wuthering Heights and also non album track Drown It.
Last Chance features 3 non-album tracks: Walk, Cut Them Out and the amusing instrumental Careful With That Chieftan Adam.
The Whipeout EP has new tracks Whipeout and Baseball In the Dark (both of which show the transition to the newer more alternative sound of the 2nd album. plus you get Biscuit Barrel (acoustic) AGAIN (and unedited) and the Empirion Remix of Sleazeball which is hardly essential. It is an "Industrial Dance" version lasting over 9 minutes if you have the stamina!
The US compilation Barrier EP compiles Barrier, the original of Simple, acoustic of Biscuit Barrel, One Way Down, Great Fire and the electric version of Meaning.
The European compilation Rolling Hills and Soaking Gills adds Fall Into Place to this compilation.
2nd album rarities:
Amber (Trinity Heights) is an extremely rare track from a promo Cd put out to promote a tour with fellow bands Cable and Carrie. It is similar to the 2nd album style, and quite obvious why they missed it off the album.
Fiction Of Life CD1 has: Pull which is a fast track (like their earlier work) but with an alternative sound (like their later). Bubble Gum Buzz mentions Trinity Heights (a reference to Amber? or where they recorded their early songs?). Finally there is an acoustic version of baseball In the Dark.
Fiction Of Life CD2 has: Fiction Of Life (NGM) - which is a different mix of the single basically. Plus a sublime cover of Crowded House's Fall At Your Feet (you can't really go wrong with that quality of songwriting), new song Jack and an acoustic version of Down by The River.
The Somewhere Else CD1 has bonus tracks Loser, Wrong Again and an acoustic version of Bothered.
CD2 of Somewhere Else has a studio version of Sleazeball, which is not a patch on the earlier live version. Plus there is the new song Don't Throw It It's A Rock and an acoustic version of Somewher Else.
Their final single Stop It All Adding Up featured 3 live tracks: Guilty Deafness, Whipe Out and Baseball In The Dark.
With hindsight, I now see the transition China Drum made from their first to their 2nd album. But at the time it was less obvious to me. They became less Punk Rock and more Alternative. However, they still rocked!
Then, one day, they decided they were bored of being China Drum and they did at least change their name to The Drum and re-invented their sound. If you read the Amazon reviews you will see that SOME PEOPLE like this album. I would doubt that many were original China Drum fans. As I love China Drum so much, occasionally I go back to The Drum thinking "It can't be that bad really can it" and I try to listen to it with fresh ears. But every time I am seriously disappointed by the mediocrity of it all. And mediocrity is over selling it....... This is not up to the quality of Nirvana, The Pixies, Sonic Youth or whoever they were trying to be. It is really upsetting to myself and I know many other China Drum fans that they thought this was the way to go.
I know at the time the band said this was what they wanted. I would love to know if this was really true. The thing is, you can change your style, countless artists I love have done this successfully over the years (Prince, Bowie, The Clash, New model Army etc..) but ALL have backed this up by writing GREAT songs in their new style. I don't hear any great songs on the Drum album, sorry. I really want to!!!! But this sounds like so many poor, talentless bands of the time that somehow got signed. What a sad end to a great band.
My Absolute Favourite China Drum songs:
(Barrier import EP/CD single)
(Acoustic version) (with the Jungle Book sample at the end) (Great Fire CD single/ Whipeout EP)
(Barrier CD single)
Meaning (electric version) (Great Fire CD Single / Barrier import EP)
(Can't Stop These Things CD single)
Can't Stop These Things (Goosefair)
Fall Into Place (album version) (Goosefair)
(Self Made Maniac)
(Self Made Maniac)
Fall At Your Feet (B side on Fiction Of Life CD2)