Kim Won-joon (the handsome bro who was going to love you after everyone had gone sleeping but is now on We Got Married) had a song called “Yalgae Generation (얄개시대)” I didn’t have a clue what “yalgae” meant back then and decided to look it up.
Yalgae describes a rascal who is always on the lookout for fun things to do. This may help a little; the Korean title for the NBC show Saved by the Bell is “Bayside Yalgae dŭl” (dŭl is for plural just like the “s” attached to plural nouns in English).
Yalgae was a character in a popular young adult fiction series called Yalgae-jŏn (얄개전) published in 1954. He is a 16-year-old boy with pimples and a special feeling for a girl named Insook. Although he failed two grades and is two years behind in school, Yalgae is not the one to be discouraged. But at the same time, Yalgae is willing to make efforts in the academics to impress the girl. Yalgae has a knack for crazy antics that gets on people’s nerve, but it sounds as though everybody finds him likable for making life more interesting in the end. I don’t know the history to back this, but Yalgae from a fictional world created by a writer in a post-war society might have represented a section of youth that had reclaimed some of their vigor and humor.
Images: On the left is the cover of the first edition of Hagwŏn that published Yalgae-jŏn. In the center is a later publication of Yalgae-jŏn. On the right is a poster of Kogo yalgae (고교얄개), a movie based on Yalgae-jŏn. (Courtesy of 국어샘 목연 at Naver Blogs)
Yalgae dŭl, also known as The Freaks, are four childhood friends who got together in 2009 after serving their mandatory armed services. Although they had been in a band called Sugar Water back in high school, it wasn’t until they became the The Freaks that they started opening for bands like 3rd Line Butterfly, Julia Hart, and Wonder Bird. An EP was released in March, and the first official record this month. The photos from both albums were taken at the apartment community where the members had spent their teen years.
The melodies on the current record are as inviting as their band name and the album cover above. The title track is “Let’s together” (우리 같이). There’s a hint of vintage to the 11 songs which were all recorded in one take. I wish I could describe things in legitimate musical terms >_< .. but for one thing, the reverberating guitar sounds bring out the old-school quality. I don’t know the real Yalgae enough to know whether The Freaks live up to the namesake in their songs. Maybe they might have not contemplated on this at all. They do kind of look Yalgae in the first picture above, and I can totally imagine an old granny sending them creepy stares while taking a morning walk. The lyrics generally address typical emotions that young adults would relate to. There’s a consistent use of “You” and “I” around whom those emotions unfold. To me, Yalgae from 1954 would have been more peppy than the you’s and I’s in The Freaks’ stories written against a backdrop of the 21st century Seoul. Here is a list of video searches on The Freaks.