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Saturday, July 28, 2007

BANDS, THOSE FUNNY LITTLE PLANS, THAT NEVER WORK QUITE RIGHT

So my ticket for the Mercury Rev gig on 2nd August (next Thursday) came in the mail.
Judging from the seat that I managed to get even at this late stage does not fill me with confidence that a decent enough Singapore crowd will be at the Esplanade Theatre to witness a performance by one of the best rock bands of the last decade.
Especially, with the pricy SINGfest kicking off a mere six days later, it's no wonder that the Mercury Rev gig appears to be the poor cousin compared to the glitzy SINGfest. Which is I personally think is an injustice.
Previous Baybeats headliners like Gloria Record, Copeland and Posies have played for free events but without any disrespect to any of these bands, the Rev is in a different league and I guess the Baybeats organizers considered it a calculated gamble to make the Rev performance a ticketed event.
I'm hoping that in the days to come more people will be booking tickets for the Rev gigs because the Rev deserve better than that...so what are you waiting for... here's the link.
As usual, hope to see you there... please come up and say hi...

Friday, July 27, 2007

THEY LIED WHEN THEY SAID "ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG"

When I blogged about the Anberlin-Copeland gig, a couple of months ago, I promised myself that I would get hold of Anberlin's new album, Cities. Well, thanks to Anberlin's publicists MSO, the album came in the mail last week. You can check out my review at the Power of Pop. Cities is a fabulous modern rock album...

THE WEIGHT

Who would I say are my biggest musical influences?
Well, of course the Beatles, Bee Gees and Bread were the very 1st bands I fell in love with as a teenager. Also, the first bands that I would sing and play the guitar or piano to. E.g. Let It Be, Melody Fair, Everything I Own to name but three songs.
By the time, I got into an actual band – the Hornets – we had gotten into the bands of the day – Wings, Deep Purple, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Bay City Rollers (!), the Eagles etc
Though, probably apart from Paul McCartney and Wings, I cannot really say the above bands have left any lasting impressions on my songwriting.
By the time the 70s ended, the post-punk movement was upon us and in the first half of the 80s, I would be heavily into bands like the Jam, the Clash, the Pretenders, Echo and the Bunnymen, U2, XTC, Squeeze, The Police, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Graham Parker, Simple Minds, Japan et al.
Certainly, once Paul Weller disbanded the Jam to form the Style Council, Weller became a major influence on my songwriting. Couple that with the obvious Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Jeff (ELO) Lynne fixations and the songs I wrote in the 80s were quite jazzy, folky and poppy.
I actually stopped buying albums in the 2nd half of the 80s (dire times, believe me) and focused my energies (and finances) on building a considerable comic book collection (now, alas, mostly destroyed by termites!).
So by the time I returned to music in 1989, I was beginning to search far and wide to listen to the best rock could offer and so I picked up on The Who, the Kinks, Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, Todd Rundgren and so whilst keeping an ear out for the new music – which the Britpop movement of the mid-90s and the Pop Underground of the late 90s, provided an enjoyable couple of years.
Of course, during the 90s, I released 4 CDs (with Watchmen, the Crowd and Popland) and I believe that any astute listener would pick up on the diverse influences on my music.
Nowadays, I’m a little confused bunny, I think. HYR has made me more conscious about my choruses and I believe I’m a better songwriter for it whilst listening to the new local bands gives me a sense of appreciation of the new music currently making the rounds.
Trouble is, I have such an enormous backlog of material, and I would not know where to start if and when that 1st solo album gets recorded. Should take Saiful’s sage advice and just do it… but who would buy a Kevin Mathews album in 2007?
… I really wanna know…

Thursday, July 26, 2007

WE ARE POWERFUL DESPITE OUR INJURIES

After the letdown of the Powerjam '07, Allura bounced back to deliver a dynamic three-song set closing the launch of Noise Singapore 2007 at the Heeren Shops with aplomb.
With Inch as the focal point, the band balanced intricate arrangements, layered nuances and plain old fashioned rock backbeat to thrill the enthusiastic audience.
After the grotesque acoustics of Zouk, it was really totally enjoyable to be able to hear semblance of initegrated sound and I believe that for me personally, I was beginning to 'get' Allura as a unit. Sure, initially, it was mainly about Inch, but I'm starting to appreciate how good the group looks up on the stage. Sure, the boys may not be carrying out coordinated leaps ala West Grand Boulevard but Mark, Matt and Aaron came across like a solid block of sound whilst Han Quan steady drumming pushed the entire band through like a juggernaut.
Limbo and Closure built up the tempo gradually and a monstrous Ladeda was the big payoff.
Inch was of course, magical. Twisting and turning, it was almost impossible not to keep your eyes on her and her vocal performance on Closure was spine-tingling. When Inch hits those high notes, it's a memorable moment.
Allura has the building blocks to go far - from Inch's obvious charisma to the band's tight combination and the genuine desire to create good material. I am excited at the prospect of witnessing this artistic process.
...yes, there's more...

“SOMETHING’S WRONG…”

It becomes particularly telling when the winning band blurts out this revealing statement when asked to comment on its victory. Is it false modesty or a Freudian slip?
For most of last night’s Powerjam ’07 finals, I felt like I had been transported back to 1978, back to the good ol’ National Theatre and showboating hard rock!
But it was rollicking good fun and I was laughing all the way as Ridge, Retrogroove and Now Open entertained the audience with all the ‘right’ sounds and moves.
The ultimate winner Ivy’s Vendetta was, in comparison, bland and innocuous, a local version of Hootie and the Blowfish – a commercially successful band in the 90s but artistically vacant. You might even say that they were a safe choice. Now, when the MCs detailed the list of criterion the judges were looking at, they mentioned creativity, technical ability, and songwriting skills.
Taking that into consideration, then Allura should have won, no contest. The band’s rendition of Switchfoot’s Stars actually improved on the original and the energetic Ladeda caught the imagination of the crowd. Of course, the centre of attention was Inch, hyperkinetic with the voice and stage presence that could not be ignored. (Unless you happened to be the judges) The rest of the band – Mark, Aaron, Matt and Han Quan – were all on their game, tight without being flashy but providing the solid backing for Inch to do her thing.
When the results were announced you could sense the palpable disapproval within the audience and the consensus amongst most of the scenesters was that the judges got it wrong.
Of course, that depends on your perspective – as my buddy Beni astutely noted – Power98 needed to select a band to represent the station so it went for the safest option – kiasu syndrome to the nth degree.
Nothing new in the Lion City, I suppose…
The other highlight was of course, the Great Spy Experiment who graced the occasion with Class ‘A’ Love Affair and Siti in the City. Although hampered by the appalling sound and Saiful breaking two strings from the get-go (!), there was no denying the sheer power of the performance. Not the best way to hear Singapore’s finest band but beggars can’t be choosers…
Also, it was good to catch up with the scenesters like HYR, Ros, Brandon, Desmond, Edward & GSE of course…
Despite the disappointments over the results, the bad sound, Zouk’s awful acoustics and other minor hiccups (which I will not detail here), I enjoyed last night for very personal reasons. Everything came together nicely and I went home with a warm feeling in my heart.
Isn’t that what it’s all about…
… and there’s more …

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

POWERJAM FINALS '07

How things change. A year ago, I would not be bothered to watch local bands play in Zouk. Now I really hate going to Zouk, it's so claustrophobic and suffocating. But now that it's all about the Singapore music scene, I'm actually excited and looking forward to tonight.
Of course, personally, I am thrilled to catch the Great Spy Experiment again (always!) and then, I'm also rooting for Allura (go Inch!) BUT objectively I'm just expecting a great night of local music.
So, I hope to see you there. Please come up and say hi! I won't bite... unless you ask very nicely.
Hurhur

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

DEAFCON 5

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yours truly will be doing a solo acoustic gig at Deafcon 5. What's that you say? What's wimpy acoustic guitar music doing at a metalhead event like Deafcon? That's ran through my mind initally when eXe invited me. But it seems like there will be TWO stages at DXO, one for full bands and the other for the wimps like me... hahaha
Whatever... two gigs in two months is like a record for me... so stop complaining!
More details coming later... but suffice to say that I'll be doing my best to ensure a certain little girl with the BIG voice sings with me on that day... can't wait!
... still there's more...

GSE T

What you are looking at, kind & gentle reader, is (as I understand it) the design of the new GSE tee shirt to promote (& celebrate) the new GSE album. Speaking of which, tomorrow, I finally get my grubby, sweaty hands on the sucker. It pays to be a music writer I tell ya, even freelance... hee hee...
... and please don't ask me what that symbol of a lightning bolt in a circle means... okay?

Monday, July 23, 2007

KING KONG JANE

It's Monday night and I'm listening to the recording of the interview I did recently with King Kong Jane - well, four-fifths, at any rate. I found Colin, Ian, Renquan and Ark (drummer Jianping was missing) to be affable young men with a good sense of fun and humour. Serious about their music, without being angst-ridden, the time spent with them was indeed enjoyable.
And so the interview is up and I hope it reflects and captures what King Kong Jane is all about.
Check it out!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

POWERPOP ON THE BAY

The last time I caught Couple was actually in December in KL, when Aidil had invited Popland to perform at the Havana Club and it was a gas.
With dark clouds assembling above, Couple - Aidil, Ariana, Ojooe and Shahrin - launched into their punchy, tuneful set with gusto. Since the last time, it appears that Ariana and Ojooe have brushed up on their backing vocals skills and provided excellent support to Aidil's lead.

Couple is a true rarity in the Malaysian-Singapore music scene - a pure powerpop band channeling the Beatles and the Beach Boys without a tinge of angst and nary a riff shot off in anger.

The band had intended to play one set of existing songs and another consisting of new songs - alas, they never got to, because unfavourable weather conditions meant that the second set was cancelled.

Major bummer.

However, with a good cross section of the Singapore music scenesters present - Pat Chng, Ben Harrison, Joe Ng, Fahmie & Mojo, Ivan Thomas - we had a good time chatting before heading off into the night...