*Editorial: The Admonished Trio won the Best Rock Album at the 14th Golden Indie Melody Award, during the award ceremony, Shengyao dedicated the award to the recently deceased member Wayne, quoting
“A Taiwan Non-Style Rock” in tribute to the music he created.
孝順一族 (Xiàoshùn yīzú) also known by their English name “The Admonished Trio” is a Taiwanese punk supergroup with singers 劉暐 (Liu Wei or Wayne) and 楊盛堯 (Yang Shengyao), who played in 傷心欲絕 (Wayne's So Sad) and 奮樂團 (The Fan Band) respectively. There is no way to discuss this band without mentioning vocalist and guitarist Wayne’s tragic early passing this year.
He was adored by the local DIY community and incredibly respected for his contribution to multiple creative projects as well as being a founding member of Wayne’s So Sad, who have gone on to become one of the most successful and loved bands to emerge from the early DIY scene in Taiwan.
The Admonished Trio was partially formed as an outlet for Wayne after he wanted to pursue a rawer sound as his former band grew in popularity and their sound changed over the years. Even their name reflects this, as the band consists of the previously mentioned singers and drummer 黃誌親 (Huang Zhiqin), leaving just the bare essentials needed for a band.
The first track SM之歌 (Song of SM) starts without pulling any punches. Right off the bat, we get searing guitars, drums that smack you right across the face, and bouncy bass that makes you want to hop right in the mosh pit. We even get a classic fiery guitar solo from Wayne before he screams “You don’t want to talk to me, I’m so happy… I am a worm, I am a maggot, I love you”. Despite the cheerful melody, there is an underlying muscular darkness to their music which makes them stand out from their immediate genre peers.
They tackle slightly more political matters in their next song 小資小民 (Petite Bourgeoisie), addressing the rich and privileged with “leave injustice for others to fight against… most afraid of damaging your own rights”. Shengyao even shows his humor and wit when he states the only questions higher education asks are “Which way is the wind blowing?” or “What is the direction of the wind?” just following trends and finding different ways to say the same thing rather than trying to expand or deepen their knowledge of the world.
The next track, 孝順龐克 (Admonished Punk), one of the best on the album, has Wayne delving deeply into darker territory and is the first to use a more melancholy melody while gaining even more grit. Despite all his success, he struggles like any of us with thoughts of worthlessness when he sings:
"I long for peace, but I’m depressed.
Mom, I can’t live anymore.
My IQ is low. Look!
My life is a sad, fake, and greedy evolutionary process.”
Through his lyrics, he eloquently addresses the basic human fears of ‘does anything I do matter at all’ and ‘will it ever get better’?
Right after the Trio follows with one of the most mellow and romantic songs on the album, 永恆 (The Lonely Guy), reminiscent of softer and sugary moments from classic bands such as The Promise Ring and other punk emo bands of the ’90s. Shengyao takes the lead, starting with a slinky solo bass line and quiet reflective vocals. He laments on loneliness and how his love reminds him of an angel even though he now knows that none truly exist. Halfway through the song, Wayne cranks up the distortion as the song enters the second half and Shengyao sings that he wants to “Let this moment become an eternity. Turn your scent into perfume” ending it all with another blazing guitar solo.
Switching things up is 特斯拉 (Tesla’s Song), a fantastic political punk earworm and nod to excess culture in Taipei and how people flaunt their wealth by driving around in absurdly expensive cars, despite how accessible and cheap public transportation is. Another more political song from Shengyao enhances its message by mixing in personal introspection while picking up the tempo and moving the album into a street punk vibe. He yells that all this focus on monetary gain makes him feel cold and sick when “people speculate in stock NFTs while I pet my cat, draw pictures and play guitar”.
不死鳥 (Phoenix) continues to move the needle into red in terms of its musical attack and political discontent (with a phenomenal horn section to boot). Using the imagery of a Phoenix, Shengyao sings of how the world seems like it’s at the end of its lifecycle burning itself out. He takes time to look around himself and asks the listener to look at all the suffering, greed, war, hunger, sickness, and withering and then howls “Burn it, burn it, burn it, common people… reincarnation… afterlife… I am so weak that I cannot understand your mercy”. It’s almost as if he is wondering if there’s going to be an afterlife if we keep up our selfish human tendencies or maybe we all just deserve to burn away if humanity keeps acting this way.
Taking another sharp stylistic turn, 日蝕 (Eclipse) is one of the darkest songs on the album evocative of darker moments from classics such as “Stay What You Are” by Saves the Day. Wayne’s periodic gentle strums and Shengyao’s dark thumping bass help to evoke cosmic mystery and when the chorus hits it conjures that same feeling of awe and unease the exact moment an eclipse occurs. Shengyao reflects on feelings if insignificance during the chorus in awe of the magnitude of such an event but also reminiscing on his feelings of anger and helplessness addressing the troubles brought up in prior songs.
Continuing this roller coaster of emotions we have 快樂 (Happiness), another song penned by Wayne. Simple yet poignant, he somberly reflects on what happiness means to him. The song starts with a beautifully distorted, lo-fi open chord progression before ramping up for Wayne’s cracked and emotive delivery. He sings that his life is pretty good despite growing up in a “blue hole”, being around selfishness, and not being fully understood. Despite that, he always tries to make people in his life laugh.
In hindsight, 奇萊假期 (Qilai Holiday) is perhaps the most heartbreaking song on the record. Obviously written about something else, perhaps an old lover or late relative, with Shengyao on lead vocals it feels like an ode to Wayne after his passing. He sings “How many longings are hidden and I haven’t had time to say them yet? Looking up at the sky to prevent tears from flowing. Even with wounds, we have to keep walking. Don't look back, don't look back, don't look back”. When the the chorus hits Shengyao and Wayne sing together
“I crossed the mountains and crossed the sea.
When the wind blows my face,
it's telling me: you will always be there”
憎恨之歌 (Song of Hatred) feels like vintage Wayne, delivering a song that could snugly fit on an old-school Wayne’s So Sad album. His writing is top-notch punk, heart on sleeve, tomfoolery. He screams with lament that he’s been “singing for twenty years, happily hating” and that after being constipated on Monday and having diarrhea on Wednesday he’s realized “life is a cycle of blockage and pleasure”. Production is fantastic as well with his own screaming backing vocals sounding like they were recorded with him shouting at the top of his lungs from outside the recording studio while some beautiful keyboards come in at the end.
塵土之王 (King of Nothing) explores the politics of the music industry, Shengyao’s take on the topic of the previous song, he sings about how much the music industry can burn out a creative person. Dark, angry, and aggressive he spits into the mic that he was “Born in dung, burned out, leaving only snow-white ashes. Return to dust I am the king of nothing.”
Wayne’s last writing contribution to the album, 成長之歌 (Growing Up), is his most reflective and personal song on the album. The mood is beefy and violent, and he sounds resentful about the current state of his life (the song seems to have been written around 2018). His lyrics read like a diary entry:
“My friends are unhappy with me because I'm drunk all the time.
My family is unhappy with me.
I have no money and can’t get a girlfriend.
The childhood photo is in front of me.
I sigh frequently when I look at it.
All the friendships and dreams in the past are just empty.”
LTK is Shengyao’s most direct political commentary with him spewing out the names of political traitors, listing all his qualms with the government, yet ending on a semi-positive note by saying that “The revolution has not yet succeeded, but the fire will continue to burn from generation to generation”. Another example of why the band is so engaging is that this song sees them playing around with classic 80s and 90s hardcore as well as a bit of skater punk.
散會 (The Party Is Over) wraps up the album on a bittersweet note. The music is unabashedly joyful sounding Ramone’s influenced pop punk, yet the lyrics showcase the band's uncanny ability to marry very dark imagery with this sound. Shengyao describes a party where there are endless cigarettes to smoke and drinks to drink, but everyone is leaving one by one until he laments “singing the same 18-year-old music, only you and me are left”. There seems to be a bitter resolve to all of this and it ties the album's themes of growing up and disillusionment in the world together when he sings “We all pretended to be fine and said good night to each other. I hesitate to speak, everything is over”.
It feels like the band entered a new era of adulthood with this album and both Wayne and Sengya brought some of their best songs to the table. It’s a reflection on the most real things in life: friendship, relationships, work, vices, and finding your own small space in the world. Wayne and the Trio will be sorely missed but we can at least be thankful that they’ve left this beautiful and heart-wrenching work of music for us to listen and learn from in the coming years.