Who Is Cui Jian!?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am

Who Is Cui Jian!?

Various Artists

(Scream Records)

You have to pity Cui Jian, just a bit. The mainland's best-known rocker has spent the past decade trying to convince people to get over the whole 'Godfather of Chinese rock' thing, and concentrate on what he's producing these days. His point was never louder or clearer than now, with this tribute album pointing fans back to his early material.

The album isn't a complete mess: Reflector's pop-punk take on Rock and Roll on the New Long March and Pao Pao Tang's fun reinvention of A Piece of Red Cloth (save the over-the-top rap section) are highlights, but they're also the opening tracks, leaving much mediocrity to follow.

In the end, only questions remain. Why mess with what were, for their time, solid pop songs - especially if the new interpretations add nothing? How is it possible to come away thinking that the album felt both rushed and as if many of the bands spent too much time knob-twiddling? Why didn't most of the bands treat the source material with the respect it deserves? And who let rap-metal act CMCB loose on Nothing to My Name?

Cui's tunes are fair game, but when you hear CMCB's take on the song with which the generation lost in the sweep of modernity first fell in love with Cui and his songwriting abilities, you get the feeling they have no idea what they're singing about. If they had, they might have chosen a different song. Ditto for the album's producers.