Album Name: The Fool 愚者
Release Date: 20th May 2020
Music Video Archive
Formed back in 2017 as a campus band, Taipei-based group Bestards (理想混蛋) finally released their first full-length album on Chinese Valentine’s Day. The fact that the band was able to successfully fundraise the costs of production in under two months (including auctioning off the chance to sing KTV with them) is a testament to the fanbase the band has already built up.
Breaking into the spotlight with their guitar led-ballads such as The Planet行星 and Rain or Shine不是因為天氣晴朗才愛你, the four-member outfit’s first record continues in this musical style with their exploration of the love, loss and loneliness of youth, while also handing over the songwriting reins from main singer Kidding Chiu (邱建豪) to drummer Look Lu (盧可沛) and guitarists Jerry Kuo (郭哲成) and Dillion Lee (李建廷). Although the album features some experimental moments on the album which somewhat jar with the overall soundscape of the album, at the very least it is true to band’s mission to do what they love, no matter how hard it is. As evidenced by the album’s motto: “just like a bastard, we’ll fight like crazy for our ideals”.
Opening track Break Free撲火的蝶 introduces us to the classic Bestards sound. The layering of soft drums and acoustic guitar over a summery ballad is given a twist with tongue-in check lyrics serving as a metaphor for a much deeper message. By dismissing the beauty of roses and fireflies in favour of becoming like “the butterfly attracted to a flame” they cleverly explore the tension between following your own desires and conforming to societal standards. This quirky style is carried on into the sassy Excuse You你討厭也沒關係, in which the upbeat melody almost distracts from the biting lyrics directed towards a former friend, “excuse you if you don’t like me, I mean it’s not it’s my job to make you happy/I’m just gonna do me, please move out of my way”.
This theme, and those of the other songs on the record are all threaded together with an exploration of the concerns of what they call “post-adolescence”, that awkward period of the mid-twenties during the transition from the innocence of youth to the real-world struggles of adulthood – neatly described in the Taiwanese expression “the world-weary generation” (厭世代).
However, the overall spirit of the band is to be like The Fool愚者 of their title track, written about the corresponding Tarot card which is a symbol of freedom and fearlessness in the face of danger. Building from the guitar picking out the melody, the song rises to an uplifting crescendo in the chorus, with the delicate vocals of lead singer Kidding Chiu balanced perfectly by the husky tones of drummer Look Lu. The lyrics remind the listener to forget the struggles of the past and carry on looking to the future, a sentiment echoed later on in the album on the track Fearless Roses 絕地花園, which features a guest appearance from fellow Taiwanese singer-songwriter Wen-Chiang Liao (廖文強). Alongside Kidding Chiu, he sings of the inevitability of both pain and happiness, (remember both the bright of day and dark of night/write down your stories whether they are of happiness or heartbreak), but ultimately shows how this is a reminder of our humanity (we are perfect in our imperfection).
Although not the title track, it is The Planet行星 which is arguably the most important and popular song on the album, with over 4.5 million views on Youtube and counting. One listen and it is clear why – over a rippling acoustic melody, Kidding Chiu draws a heartbreakingly beautiful picture of the simultaneous highs and lows of unrequited love, comparing himself to a star stuck in the endless orbit of another planet, “I can’t get close to you, but I can’t pull away/I’m too used to this feeling of loneliness, living in your shadow”. Unlike the original version, this release adds an orchestral background and climactic last phase which somewhat over-dramatises what already worked well as an unpretentious, honest ballad.
In fact, the tracks of Fading寂寞的大孩子 and One of Two不能寂寞的人 showcase Bestards’ singular ability to craft sincere yet relatable love songs which still manage to offer a fresh perspective on a well-worn genre.
Despite also speaking of the familiar topics of love and loss, the band’s attempt to experiment with different genres on Thestral騎士墜鬼馬 and I’m Your Bling Bling我是你的 comes across as slightly confusing, signalling an abrupt change of direction from the folksy sound of the other tracks. This is especially apparent on I’m Your Bling Bling, which fuses elements of high energy R’n’B and electronica. Presumably the change in sound is due to the track being entirely composed and almost entirely performed by Look Lu, but it seems the track would work better as an innovative solo offering rather than as a part of this curation.
The other contribution from Look Lu, Call Me When You Need Me再說 is a more seamless integration of his own sound with the band’s. He infuses the folky Bestards sound with his own distinctive vocals and rhythmic guitar to create a piece which gives a refreshing take on the overall sound of the album without distracting from its initial direction.
Not Yet 我還沒有作好被打倒的準備 , the last track circles back to face the question posed at the beginning of the album – how to push forward in the face of failure. Here the addition of an orchestral background elevates the track to a rousing anthem for the “world-weary generation”, echoing the metaphor of the first track, “with the courage of the butterfly/I know I can still fly, without fearing the distance“. With a solid first album behind them and the courage to “fight like crazy for our ideals”, the future can only be bright for the Bestards.
|01 撲火的蝶 (Break Free)|
|02 愚者 (The Fool)|
|03 行星 (The Planet) – Galaxy Ver.|
|04 騎士墜鬼馬 (Thestral)|
|05 你討厭也沒關係 (Excuse You)|
|06 不能寂寞的人 (One of Two)|
|07 我是你的Bling Bling (I’m Your Bling Bling)|
|08 絕地花園 (Fearless Roses)|
|09 寂寞的大孩子 (Fading)|
|10 再說 (Call Me When You Need)|
|11 我還沒有作好被打倒的準備 (Not Yet)|