You can’t discuss the history of Korean punk rock, or Korean rock in general, without mentioning Crying Nut or No Brain. Both are described as founding fathers of Korean punk rock; they pioneered the musical niche in the 90s and played a huge part in defining the Korean punk sound. They recently collaborated on an album on which they performed each other’s hit songs, along with one new track written by the both of them.
Having these two bands collaborate on an album is epic in itself. Punk flows through Crying Nut and No Brain’s veins, and it’s audible in this album.
It’s fun to hear how each band interprets the other’s songs. While No Brain’s interpretations are more true to the originals, Crying Nut takes more creative freedom. Crying Nut alternates between trot, reggae, and punk in their remakes. “넌 내게 반했어” is the exception; it’s all punk, and delightfully so. Meanwhile, No Brain’s remakes are more straight-up punk with an emphasis on performance energy rather than creating something new. The joint track, “96,” is representative of both groups’ energies.
Although these older songs have been refashioned in a more modern style, I can definitely still hear the 90s/early 2000s in this album. The melodies on 96 are classic and simple and are less Western sounding than modern Korean rock. The rhythmic pulse is straightforward, the vocal style is gutsy, and the guitar writing is thick and “garage-y.” The writing is less complex than a lot of modern punk-rock, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
At the time of their release, these songs were groundbreaking and introducing melodies, harmonies, textures, and musical attitudes that hadn’t really been done before in Korea. But when put into a modern musical context, the freshness is lost. 96 sometimes sounds outdated and predictable; we’ve heard the same punk-rock chord progressions and melodies plenty of times before, and they’re nothing new to our ears. Because of this, I’d rather listen to the originals, since they are more innovative and have rawer energy.
All this being said, 96 is still a fun ride, and showcases some of the most iconic talents in Korean rock. Crying Nut and No Brain take on each other’s music with great energy and confidence. For that reason, the album is worth listening to, despite not being particularly exciting.
96 on iTunes.