Album Reviews

Album Review: Peace Hotel - Secret Menu (Modern Sky)

Reuben Raj
Out Of Control from Peace Hotel's debut album, Secret Menu

After signing with the Chinese label Modern Sky 摩登天空, the band Peace Hotel or 和平饭店 proudly celebrates indie-pop with their special blend of new wave and post-punk in the debut album, Secret Menu.

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Peace Hotel

Following in the footsteps of bands like 伤势甜面包凌迟, Peace Hotel has emerged to put Anhui back on the map of indie music strongholds in China. The band was formed in 2016 by Liu Yan (vocals & keyboards), Wang Yang (guitar), Li Jian (bass) and Shan Ziwu (Hos) (drums).

Secret Menu or 隐藏菜单 was co-produced by Liu Yan and Wu Tao from revered indie band DADA at the Modern Sky Studio. Due to a certain amount of inexperience, the young band faced a steep learning curve during the recording process but their perseverance finally culminated a damn fine solid album with clear-sounding instrumentation and vocal tracks.

The album instantly starts on a colourful path with 太阳是解药; the retro synth melodies perfectly match with jangly guitars and Yan’s clear and pleasing vocals. The synth-driven soundscape is further enhanced with deft bass lines and toe-tapping boot-stomping beats in 黎明前出发 and infectious dance track, Out Of Control.

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Liu Yan on keyboards and lead vocals

The vocal prowess of chief songwriter Liu Yan is clearly evident on 在时间的答案里 with a simple but effective guitar riff by co-pilot Wang Yang that will make one fling arms wide and fearlessly embrace the dance floor with no fucks given. Beautiful Order is a fitting ‘aperitif’ in the 10-track LP to show a slightly softer side of the band’s new wave-ish repertoire.

Interestingly, it is the second part of the album that captivates me more. 你不爱我我就爱别人 was written by guitarist Wang Yang and its echoes of old Shanghai ballrooms stand out defiantly... an ideal fit for the Roadhouse aka Bang Bang Bar on an episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

The last track, 最后难过的人不是我 is the perfect end... leaving listeners longing for more after a breathless 9-course meal from a ‘secret menu’ filled with escape and respite from the rigours of modern living.

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Shan Ziwu (Hos) on drums

Throughout the LP, drummer Shan Ziwu succeeds in keeping the album lively and on point, creating thunder and crashes to connect each song. Bassist Li Jian dodges in and out of the low end with short and distinct solos particularly one in Out Of Control.

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Li Jian on bass

A bass riff akin to Simon Gallup’s rhythmic trademark sound (from The Cure) in 人生模版 makes me wonder if Li Jian could share the spotlight and deliver more. Interestingly, this bass line was a particular challenge for Yan when he tried to piece the song together.

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Wang Yang on guitar

The surf rock sound and style of guitarist Wang Yang fits well throughout the album and one hopes he explores new sonic ground in future Peace Hotel songs (which this author is happy to share is already firmly in progress!). My bet is on Yang walking in the footsteps and becoming China’s very own Bernard Sumner (New Order, Electronic)! Too soon, you might say? All it takes might be some Twisted Tenderness.

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Peace Hotel

A brilliant debut by the boys from Anhui; a bit like Duran Duran who took New Wave to centre stage in 81’. Peace Hotel has whetted appetites with catchy songs in a wholesome and well-produced debut and the masses are screaming out for more!

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See Peace Hotel when they perform at the Nuts Live House in Chongqing on 30 August 2020.

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Peace Hotel will also tour other cities across China on the following dates: 

  • August 20 Hangzhou Wine Ball Club
  • August 21 Shanghai Yuyintang (Kaixuan Road Store)
  • August 22 Hill Coffee Hillhouse Suzhou
  • August 23 Beijing Music Space 
  • August 29 Chengdu CH8 No Space (Dongjiao Store)
  • August 30 Chongqing Nuts LIVEHOUSE
  • September 03 Wuhan VOX LIVEHOUSE
  • September 04 Changsha VOX LIVEHOUSE
  • September 05 Guangzhou 191 Space
  • September 06 Shenzhen brown sugar cans Shangbu

 

Written By: Reuben Raj Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. Often seen lurking behind a camera inside the pit of a concert or wandering the streets of China with a blond, Reuben harbours intimate feelings for vinyl records and his Hasselblad SW/C from 1965. He is also the founder of Radio 13.