Ai Weiwei - Dumbass - Singles - Reviews - Soundblab

Ai Weiwei - Dumbass

by Rich Morris Rating:9 Release Date:2013-05-22

We all know Ai Weiwei is brave. The internationally famous and outspoken artist was detained for 81 days as part of crackdown by the Chinese government on campaigners and dissidents. But did you know he can sing?

Well, actually he can't really. But it doesn't matter. 'Dumbass', taken from his soon-to-be-released debut album Divine Comedy, is an industrial metal behemoth which combines head-crushing riffs, slinky, serpentine bass, dystopian synth and incongruous sections of melodic traditional instrumentation. Over this queasy, menace-drenched cacophony, Weiwei howls lyrics about non-compliance and refusal to compromise.

The song takes aim at an intellectual or artist who tries to appease the repressive political system and work within it, frustrating any attempts at change with his timidity: "When you're ready to strike/ he mumbles about non-violence." He also makes clear how lonely the life of a political dissident in China can be: "Stand on the frontline like a dumbass/ in a country that puts out like a hooker/ The field's full of fuckers/ Dumbasses are everywhere." As if that wasn't enough, he then delivers one of the greatest punk rock statements ever issued in any song ever: "Fuck forgiveness/ Tolerance be damned/ To hell with manners/ The low-life's invincible."

Of course, all this is sung in his native tongue, so most of us can just enjoy the brutal, affirming rage of the music, just as we did with Pussy Riot's 'Putin Lights Up the Fires' last year. The video, however, must be seen to be believed. A collaboration with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, it features an exact-as-possible recreation of the cell Weiwei was held in (although the crabs crawling out of the toilet are probably artistic license). Weiwei is shown being tortured by and in turn torturing the soldiers who incarcerate him. By the end, he's been shaved and given a cross-dressing makeover, forced to parade in front of the soldiers, perhaps a reflection of the "hooker" country he considers his homeland to be.

The whole package is simultaneously jaw-droppingly brave and ridiculously cool. Needlessly to say, it makes every NME band of the past decade look like the simpering, wannabe-rebel mummy's boys they really are. Thank fuck music this political and incendiary exists somewhere. I just wish some of this spirit would find its way to the UK.

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