February 24, 2010

Indie Asia with the Handsome Furs

» Handsome Furs – I’m Confused (3:36) – 4.6MB mp3 @ 178kbps


Handsome Furs are a Montreal indie rock duo who draw musical inspiration from their travels—Russia and Scandinavia for last year’s Face Control and their 2007 debut Plague Park, respectively. For anyone who is familiar with Dan Boeckner’s songwriting/guitar work for Wolf Parade, it should come as no surprise that the synthesis of his trademark punk riffage/yelping and his wife Alexei Perry’s keyboards/electronics over sequenced beats yields jittery indie pop.

The Furs’ second album was good enough to merit CNN’s blessing for an Asian tour last fall, flip-cameras in tow, including a handful of shows in China about a month and a half before I landed in Beijing. Their mission: to create authentic travel content for the Cable News Network.


Of course, it seems like a bit of a stretch for CNN to co-opt the indie cred of the relatively obscure Canadian duo, but Sub Pop pulled it off and I, for one, appreciate the production value: flip-vid footage, when edited properly, can pass for decent amateur cultural interest content. Indeed, each webisode consists of vicarious sightseeing excursions with the Handsome Furs.

Although the winsome pair invariably see Beijing through the eyes of tourists, Dan and Alexei still manage to come off as rather genuine when, for example, they rep Double Happiness (my cigarettes of choice). Similarly, brief clips of a gig at D-22 and a brief cameo by Nathaniel of Splitworks (who I had the pleasure of meeting towards the end of my stay) elicit a distinct personal resonance that, at the risk of sounding completely cliché, really brings me back.


Unfortunately, the videos are not embeddable—apparently CNN doesn’t care for free publicity—so you’ll have to go to the microsite at CNN.com/IndieAsia to watch the videos… and, of course, comment on them.

In response to the critics (see comments to episode 3): it’s supposed to be cultural interest with a twist, more like home videos than professional documentary, and the backlash at CNN’s (admittedly somewhat misguided) attempt to go digital seems entirely misplaced. Indie Asia is as transparent a media partnership as anything I’ve seen, and it’s not trying to be anything more than that.

The casting of the Handsome Furs is obviously an oblique, sublimated bid to attract the hipster demo—contrived, sure, but you can’t fault the network or the label for it, much less the band. CNN gave them some money to record what they do anyway (besides, of course, recording albums): travel and tour. Sounds like a good deal to me.

And to the Beijing residents who allege that Dan and Alexei somehow misrepresent the experience of living in China: nostalgia aside, they aren’t living in China. They’re just having a good time.

Filed under: China, Music  · Tags: , , , , , , ,

No Comments »