Album name: "44 Stone Lions"
If you are a regular at the pubs, keen on live performances, or visit a lot of music festivals here in Taiwan, chances of you've already heard of, if not seen, the band 88 Balaz. This group has been together for 12 years and has given thousands of live performances throughout the years, gaining a great reputation for themselves.
Even with all the success, they still made their fans wait for close to seven years before releasing their debut album "44 Stone Lions". 88 Balaz however, faced a setback with a similar problem that plagues other local bands: a few members had to go serve in the army, so the line-up changed a lot. In the last three years, the group has finalized its line-up, now made up of lead lyricist, composer and lead vocalist A-Qiang, guitarist Chen-Hao, drumer An-zai, and the one female in the group, bassist Guan-Ling.
According to Xiao-Ke, lead singer of Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (another local band), 88 Balaz is "the worst band in Taiwan", but their live performances are "always full of energy", which always tends to cause a lot of chaos. Audiences frequently see scenes like Chen-Hao doing a headstand while playing the guitar, and A-Qiang breaking into the splits on stage, which is actually not too different from what you'd see from other local acts like The Clippers The Loh Tsui Kweh Commune.
In their bluesy punk tunes, A-Qiang sing songs that sounds more like murmuring; listeners might have a hard time understanding the lyrics, and even if they can physically hear what the lead singer is saying, it's sometimes difficult to understand his meaning. Nevertheless, their endless energy is one of the most distinguished features of 88 Balaz and more than makes up for some cloudy lyrics. Their chaotic and out-of-control performance style is a way of showing their devotion to music and is in no way a clamorous stunt to compensate for their lack of talent. This type of explosive performance is without question a performance not to be missed by all live rock 'n' roll fans.
Their debut album "44 Stone Lions" is more like an extension of their live performances. A-Qiang's roaring voice is still there, and their style still shines through the speakers, finding a perfect balance between serenity and madness. However, as a whole, the album tends to be more delicate and complete than their live performances, a sign of musical maturity.
It's difficult to review particular songs on "44 Stone Lions" as the album should be listened to as one solid whole. My best advice is to listen from track one to the end without stopping, and enjoy 88 Balaz's world of blues and punk fusion. This method will make their next live show even more fun.