When I first heard that No Brain (노브레인) and Crying Nut (크라잉 넛) were putting out an album together I started jumping for joy. Two of my favourite groups doing something together, I was all over that. And of course, I thought I would review it… because that’s what I do.
But when I bought that album last week, I realized I couldn’t write a regular review because it would simply read like a slightly more intelligent version of “Omg, this is so… wow… they’re singing each other’s songs… omg.” No joke, that was my first impression and my second… and my third.
It was almost impossible to get past my inner fan girl’s reaction to the album and view it objectively enough to review it. Oddly, I’ve never had that reaction before, even when I review my favourite groups/bands (which I often do). But for some reason – maybe because of how fascinated I was with the format (two of my favourite bands singing each other’s songs, including some of my favourites) – when I sat down to write the review after enjoying, I mean listening to, the album a half a dozen times all I could do was gush. Yeah, not very constructive or helpful.
So I let my inner fan girl come out & play
That’s when I thought, what would it hurt if I gushed like a fan girl? Why not talk about how excited I’ve been for ‘96’ ever since I heard it was going to be a collaboration between No Brain and Crying Nut? Why not talk about how abso-freaking-lutely cool the album is? Why not share how much I like both bands?
And since I couldn’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t share my love of two of my fav bands and their new collaborative album… here goes.
Why was I so excited?
I first heard No Brain back in 2007 at a music festival in Seoul when they literally stopped me in my tracks as they started to play. Back then, I didn’t know much about Korean music except a bit about K-pop from my students (I was an English teacher in Korea in 2007). But since my personal music taste runs more to alternative, punk rock or hip hop/R&B; I was happy to find out there were some great bands in Korea. That Korean music was more than just K-pop (not that there’s anything wrong with K-pop but most of it is too much like pop for my tastes).
Thankfully, that music festival – and No Brain – led me to explore other Korean bands, including Crying Nut. My Korean music collection has grown exponentially, all because I knew that if I liked No Brain and Crying Nut, there would be other Korean bands that suited me. And there were. ^^
Since I returned to Canada, I’ve seen them both a few times – in Toronto and in the U.S. – and even interviewed both bands. My inner fan girl was sooo nervous when I interviewed No Brain but they were amazing – so friendly and funny. If you’re interested, here’s my interview with No Brain and here’s the one with Crying Nut.
Why are Crying Nut and No Brain amazing?
Beyond my personal excitement about ‘96‘ and the two bands, Crying Nut and No Brain are pioneers of Korean punk rock and have been going strong from the time they exploded onto the Hongdae indie scene back in the nineties. They are both among the few Korean indie bands that have achieved crossover, mainstream success and are still regular putting out new music and performing – both in Korea and abroad. In fact, I saw both at South by Southwest this year. And both have performed in Toronto – Crying Nut in 2012 and No Brain in 2013.
Wondering why I’m explaining all this? There is a point to it all beyond letting my inner fan girl gush. If I haven’t made it obvious yet, I’m a fan of both bands^^ – okay, perhaps a little more of No Brain – so hearing them sing each other’s songs was beyond cool. ‘96’ should be a must-purchase item for any and all No Brain and Crying Nut fans. Both bands brought their A-game for their renditions of each other’s songs.
Mini Review of ’96’
While I love all the songs on ‘96‘, there are three that really stand out for me. But all the songs were fun to listen to. No Brain did their versions of Crying Nut’s 말달리자 Speed Up Losers, 룩셈부르크 Luxembourg and 비둘기 Dove. While Crying Nut interpreted No Brain’s 넌 내게 반했어 Your Crush on Me, 바다 사나이 Sea Man and 아름다운 세상 Beautiful World. All the songs rock but I’ll just talk about the three that stood out the most for me.
넌 내게 반했어 Your Crush on Me
This is one of my favourite all-time No Brain songs so it was really fun to hear it sung by Crying Nut. Told you I couldn’t write a proper review, I’m just going to keep gushing about how cool is was to hear them sing each other’s songs. But seriously, it sounded completely different, especially the beginning of the song.
Okay, I’m pretty much going to say the reverse of what I just said. I love this Crying Nut song and it was cool hearing No Brain sing it. Their version is a bit harder than the original. Funnily enough, I was just singing this song in a noraebang with friends on my birthday.
The title track, and the only new song on the album, is a collaborative effect with both bands involved. It starts out with No Brain’s Lee Sung Woo and Crying Nut’s Park Yoon Sik in rock ballad style but soon gets louder but no less fun. Plus it’s fun to learn a little more about the bands as the name – ’96’ – reflects the year the bands met.
I loved ‘96‘! I was expecting to love the album and it didn’t disappoint. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since I bought it from iTunes the day it was released and it’s been fun listening to music just for the fun of it, not to review it. But beyond my fan girl happiness, it’s a very fun – and very good – album. Just not one I can review objectively because I love it too much. Seriously though, give it a listen. I bet you’ll love it too!
If you want to learn more about No Brain and Crying Nut, or just stay connected to them, check them out on social media.