22 Feb 2023 - Stephan
Psychedelic Rock | WV Sorcerer Productions | Release date: 03 Feb 2023 | Favorite song: 山地情歌 San-Di Love Song
This is a story of an album of two stories. The first story ignores the subtitles from Cold Dew and their label. It’s a story told in a - due to my lack of any actual expertise - completely made-up version of the Taiwanese film and TV industry in the early 1980’s, my personal fan-fiction, which has nothing to do with the original script at all.
The writers had so many ideas and such high hopes for Yuyu Warrior Cops. While officially being planned as a stand-alone TV production all parties were secretly hoping to turn it into the pilot for a whole series or even franchise. But ultimately it was a combination of the gap between the creatives’ ambitions and financial possibilities, as well as the executives’ market strategy, which led to a different outcome. The writers wanted everything everywhere all at once and ultimately just crammed way too many incoherent styles and tones into their script. Even though times were wild, the project was deemed too convoluted for the general public and it became an exclusive release for the booming VHS scene swapping over from Japan.
Yet not only since the production values couldn’t nearly match those of movies from Tokyo or Hong Kong, but also because the writing was wonky and the talents of the cast limited, Yuyu Warrior Cops only reached a small enthusiastic following and soon faded into obscurity for decades. Today though, in the wake of some viral social media momentum, it celebrates an unexpected renaissance and is even considered a cult classic ahead of its time for anticipating multiple trends of later international TV and cinema successes.
Shortening the title to the more ambivalent Yuyu 欲欲 the Taiwanese Psychedelic Rock quartet Cold Dew re-narrates the film by recreating the original soundtrack, of which only worn-out copies from the original recordings survived, and they do so with painstaking attention to detail.
The first track “雲 Cloud” is a schmaltzy ballad which played over the title cards, while multiple scenes showcasing the lead actors and spoiling the upcoming eighty minutes flew over the screen, each one nestled in a dreamy blur effect and ending in a freeze frame. It almost looked like a soap opera at that point - you could already clearly guess who would belong to the love triangle -, but then the sequence also gave you glimpses into motorcycle stunts, Kung Fu wire action and jumpscares with creatures looking like the crossbreed of vampires and ridiculous Pokémon monsters. Determined to sell this weird mishmash as something modern and exciting, the production of the music went full zeitgeist, drenched in über-reverb and with that really Big Ol’Eighties snare drum. The guitars already feel a little Post Punk-ish here and there, yet at their zenith completely explode into a surprsingly heavy Goth Rock solo. The slushy crooning vocals may need some accustoming, but all in all the five minutes of this track are actually much more decent than you would expect in the context.
Yet this was only the beginning! While on screen all kinds of wild unpredictable madness ensue, the album reflects that in three long tracks, which often dramatically change between very different scenes. There are score-esque atmospheric bits and absolutely overblown Krautrock excesses in the style of Acid Mothers Temple or countrymen and fellow Psych animals Dope Purple. We hear mixtures of Rockabilly, Surf Rock and traditonal Taiwanese influences. Cold Dew masterfully play with moods and dynamics, shapes and colours. Anyone who looks for music to fill the void which the departure of Kikagaku Moyo has left, and who doesn’t solely want to rely on Minami Deutsch for that matter, will find a spring tide of ideas splashing into their faces here. Delicacy and raw energy, slow-dancing high-heel shoes and fiercely blazing guitars go hand in hand on Yuyu 欲欲.
Just like the screenwriters before them, the musicians go for any direction that pleases them. In doing so they create some moments which at first are bewildering, but ultimately all work together. Much better than the visuals to be honest. In truth, the music of YuYu Warrior Cops probably was the key component providing at least some sense of structure. Even being all over the place itself, even switching from a studio to a live record with “六神無主 In a Daze”, there is a sense of overarching development. If you focus on the vocals for example, you’ll find that after each long break they return always a little bit stronger than before, until they have that really great, sweet balance of emotional expression and extra grit - and you actually wish there were some more of them.
And if you don’t really concentrate on any specific detail, you will still subconsciously feel it. Why are the martial arts law enforcer spies awkwardly flirting with each other while they’re fighting enemy goons with laser eyes on a matte painting mountaintop which they reached via an interdimensional space portal? I don’t know. We’ll never know. Maybe the authors were just high. But when the credits roll, we still somehow have that weird sensation of a deeper hidden meaning just an arm’s length beyond our grasp. Somehow all of this makes perfect sense. Or were we just high?
Pause for a moment! Breathe in. Breathe out. And now forget all the nonsense I’ve just told you! Well, everything except the bits about the actual music.
As a lucky owner of the album’s beautiful vinyl edition (the high WV Sorcerer Productions standards are easily met once again), I’m opening the gatefold to take a look at the artists’ own liner notes and the lyrics, which conveniently also come with English translations: “‘Yuyu’, a word in Buddhism, means the pursuit of all desires in the world, and the never-ending desire that often prevents people from being free. [… ] Desire is something we are born with, but unrestrainted desire can also destroy a person. With “searching” in the surface and “greed” on the underside, the album ‘Yuyu’ is a peek into a corrupted soul.”
Yes, this concept, which is used as the theme for Cold Dew’s story, is far from my fan-fiction. And with poetic insights like “The morning sun never lasts a day.” it certainly speaks a different language. But there’s actually a similarity in that element of man always wanting more. You can attest that to the band’s protagonist as well as to my show creators. In slightly different variations of course. But like the liner notes end: “This is something that anyone can encounter.”
In that spirit I conclude with the observation that both ideas actually work just fine with the music. And so will yours, I’m positive!
Ok, STOP again! Was this whole review too weird? Please be honest! Let me try an alternative:
This is a review of two reviews. The first review is the incoherent mess you’ve just read or gave up reading somewhere in the middle. The second review however gets straight to the point that matters, at least if you dare to trust my taste:
Cold Dew’s Yuyu 欲欲 is an exciting and original Krautrock spectacle and actually my favorite album of the young year 2023 so far.