The Usual Angst (Independent)
China Syndrome’s previous LP, 2011’s Nothing’s Not Worth Knowing, offered more or less upbeat power pop that seemed to bear the influence of Big Star on its sleeve. Or maybe it was just that I’d caught bandleader Tim Chan at an Alex Chilton memorial show, with a revamped lineup of 64 Funnycars, shortly before hearing it.
The influences on 2014’s The Usual Angst seem to have more to do with early-1990s Seattle popcraft, such as that offered by the Young Fresh Fellows. There’s some harder-driving stuff as well, with the opening track, “Corner of Gore and Pender”, kicking things off with a crunchy rock riff that surprises you by evoking Zep or something, at least before Chan’s likable, nerdy-everyman vocals kick in. (He’s about as far from Robert Plant as you can get.)
The best track is “My Pal Dan”, which is about running into an old friend who is now in every way more successful than you and just hating how it makes you feel. That song boasts fun “woo-oo-oo” background vocals, a horn section, and some fantastic, hooky guitar from Chan, who is one of the city’s more underrated six-string wizards.