Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
You can listen to four catchy tracks from their eponymous debut album at its myspace site viz. A-Punk, Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. Believe me, the noise that VW makes is refreshing...
I especially love Oxford Comma - the keyboard backing, the cute tune...
Last couple of weeks, I've been coming up with snatches of piano pieces in preparation for films I will be scoring in the near future. Nothing quite compares to the buzz when a tune and visuals come together.
If all goes well, I could be writing for three movies in the coming weeks!
Will keep you all posted...
... in the meantime, I've upload a demo of Your Forgiveness, submitted for consideration for a film few years back but rejected. Comments, please.
I quite like it...
...and there's more...
Monday, February 04, 2008
That's the only way I could describe what I'd witnessed at the Indoor Stadium tonight.
Kudos to Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland and Sting for not coasting this reunion tour. Instead, the Police put their heart and soul into a solid two hours of sheer rockin' pleasure.
All the usual suspects were reeled out to universal acclaim. The 10,000-strong crowd enjoyed every minute right from the moment the trio opened the set with Message in a Bottle.
It was obvious that the band was trying its best to keep the songs fresh by tweaking arrangements and even mixing tracks together e.g. Voices Inside My Head and When the World is Running Down and Can't Stand Losing You and Regatta de Blanc.
Strangely enough, for me, it all really hit home with Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, which I've always considered to be lightweight and trivial. Yet, in the midst of the song, whilst I was dancing, clapping and singing along, I must confessed I welled up a bit. I felt like the 20-year-old who'd prance around in his home to the soundtrack of his favorite Police tracks... awww...
Considering the fact that these men were more than a decade older than me meant little as the power and energy of the performance rolled back the years. Stewart Copeland hit the drums so hard, it was unbelievable, Andy Summers displayed the deftness of touch that has influenced guitarists to this day and Sting still managed to hit the high notes on Roxanne.
For its encore, the band dived into King of Pain, So Lonely and the classic Every Breath You Take. But even that was not the end, as Summers hung around exhorting his mates to deliver one last number and launched into the riff for Next To You as Sting and Copeland returned to the set to deliver a blistering final number.
A truly unforgettable night...
Closure - Allura
Courtesy of Nick Chan, this raw, unmixed recording of one of my favourite Allura songs struck me as a little meek when I first heard it but it has somehow gained strength with each succeeding listen. I imagine that there is a lot of work to be done before it's finished but the sheer power of the song shines through. Inch sounds suitably emotional with her impassioned vocals but it is HQ that carries the track with his intricate drumming. More the sum of its individual parts, this version of Closure, if nothing else, will keep me hungry for the 'real thing' when it comes...
Captain Funkycurls - The Great Spy Experiment
A track that has gone AWOL from the GSE setlist (though it was encored at ZoukOut!) but upon closer examination, it is a wondrous distillation of all the groovy Britpop influences that made Flower Show Riots such an enjoyable album. Certainly, it contains one of the most affected vocals from Saiful ("gloawing"?) and the line "So come aboard and fly with me" truly soars. Perhaps one of the more organic GSE tracks - looking forward to hearing the band play Captain Funkycurls live once again... "Come on now!"
Fiona - Jack and Rai
This is either a demo or a preliminary recording that I have a few concerns about but in essence, contains one of the catchiest choruses around. Presented in a power pop fashion (ala Fountains of Wayne), I can imagine Fiona sitting comfortably in the Billboard Top Twenty (with accompanying music video, of course!). It's deceptively simple but isn't that's how all the great pop songs kinda creep up on you? Can't wait for the album to check out the final product...
Ordinary is King - You and Whose Army?
Ah, this dreamy space rock song has long convinced me that You and Whose Army? could possible bridge the gap between arty post-rock and classic pop-rock in the Singapore music scene. With a melancholy vibe that never relents with a sustaining edge that builds in crescendo till the heady climax. Bonk and Beni sound heavenly harmonizing over the chorus, James' slide guitar is simply gorgeous and Adam's bass provides the throbbing backbone. I could listen to this forever...
Absolute Beginners - Leeson
It takes balls to call your song Absolute Beginners. I mean, there are already two great songs with that name, one by the Jam and the other by David Bowie. So it better be good. No, it better be bloody awesome! Amazingly enough, Leeson manage to come up with a song that lives up to those finest Britpop traditions. It helps when your vocalist is a Brit, I guess, but the entire track flows with all the right juices - from the Kinks to Blur to Arctic Monkeys - and showcases a irresistible chorus that should have most audiences singing along to.
Wanna be part of Hi-Five? Then, send me an mp3 of your best song at soulalt (at) gmail (dot) com
...and there's more...
Sunday, February 03, 2008
This highly anticipated gig to launch the magnificent B-Quartet debut album did not at any time disappoint. What was clearly evident from the opening song onwards was how tight the band was. Normally, bands may take a little time to warm up before hitting their stride but not so with B-Quartet. Phenomenal musicianship.
Reproducing every single track from the album almost perfectly, it was an awesome buzz to listen to Shoebox, Personal Space, Disp rs, Stupid Luxury and the absolute highlight of the night - Boutique. Personally, I was totally lost in the music, bopping to the beat, singing along to those gorgeous tunes and lapping up every little nuance. Oh joy!
Not only that, the band delivered a visceral Paranoid Android and a quaint Rainbow Connection (yup, that one!). In addition, each member had a moment in the spotlight with their own "monologue" - from Raizan's deft guitar pyrotechnics (smokin') to Hidir's brilliant vocal performance (man, is he talented!) to Faizal's sweet birthday song to his mom (awww) to Haykal's touching memories of his late father - don't worry, Haykal, it didn't bring the event down but put a human face (and heart) on it instead...
What more can I really say? Positively one of the best Singapore gigs in living memory and I hope and pray that it is only the beginning...
And a great shout out to all the groovy groovy people - Adam, Beni, Bonk, James, Inch, Saiful, Huzaifah, Soo, Takahiro, Shu Hoong, Syed, Audie, Fir, HQ, Aaron and Inch!
...still there's more...
Friday, February 01, 2008
I enjoyed Leeson's set at Stasis 10 and was suitably intrigued when Brian invited me to its gig at Home Club. Before the event, I sat down for dinner with the group (sans Jamie) and found them pleasingly down-to-earth and keenly aware of the realities of the Singapore music scene. The main objective was to play live and have fun.
This cavalier attitude belied a determination to be unique and exciting in a music scene that so often propounds uniformity over creativity. The three guitar players all sported headwear that seemed quaint and Jamie was attired in a full suit but it was their music that truly set them apart.
Memorable songs with irresistibly catchy choruses like current single, Absolute Beginners (www.myspace.com/leesonsg) and set closer, The King are prime examples of the strength of Leeson's repertoire. Primarily Britpop-based and rooted in the classic songcraft of the 70s, these songs prove that there is something special about Leeson and certainly deserving of a bigger stage. Catch them live the next time they play - a highly recommended pop experience.
And guys, thanks for the groundnuts...
... but there's more...
...from the distorted noise that passed for sound quality at the Max Pavilion.
Notwithstanding that drawback, deeply impressed with Switchfoot and particularly, Jon Foreman.
The Switchfoot frontman certainly gave the fans their money's worth with his antics. Well, twice he jumped into the crowd and stood up amongst them to sing. He was equally adept with the guitar as he was with the microphone - swinging, leaping and holding the rapt crowd in the palm of his hand. The consummate showman.
Not that the band did not play their part as Switchfoot ripped through their stellar material to universal acclaim - Oh! Gravity, Stars, This Is Your Life, Ammunition, Dirty Second Hands, We Are One Tonight and so on.
However, the coolest moment came midway through American Dream when the band stopped in their tracks, frozen in motion for a couple of minutes - an amazing sight to behold!
As the set wore on, Switchfoot got stronger and stronger and proved themselves to be one of the finer modern pop-rock bands out there.
And that's what I really dig about Switchfoot, they're certainly no bandwagon jumpers but true blue straight ahead rock 'n' rollers.
In that sense, Switchfoot deserved a bigger Singaporean platform to showcase their obvious talent but at least both band and audience had a splendid time.
I know I did.
Kudos to WMUM for a fine show and especially to Esmond for making things happen.
And...a shout out to Keith, Jack, Dong, Iain, Jon, Lennat and the girl who asked me if I was the Watchmen...
...and there's more...
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Three awesome gigs in six days! It all begins with Switchfoot tomorrow night at the Max Pavilion which promises to be frenetic evening of modern rock pyrotechnics. Switchfoot's three major label albums viz. The Beautiful Letdown, Nothing is Sound and Oh! Gravity are all essential listening for anyone remotely interested in the rock scene in the 2000s. Switchfoot's signature sound is crunchy, melodic and informed with the right 80s influences i.e. The Police and U2. Not only that but this "sweaty" American rock band will be supported by our very own, The Fire Fight and West Grand Boulevard, who no doubt will punch above their own weight. Expecting a hi-energy workout!
Come Saturday and it's the launch of one of the finest Singaporean albums of all time as B-Quartet will bring its cool jazz-rock-pop hybrid to the Playden. I understand that the gig is virtually sold out and I intend to be there early to snag a front row view. Listen, you better be there for the happening event of February 2008 and if not, make sure at least that you are in possession of Tomorrow is our Permanent Address. C'mon!
To top it all off on Monday, it's the fabulous Police at the Indoor Stadium. I've waited for 28 years to watch the Police live and believe me it's gonna be worth it even if I know that maybe they're past their prime - just look at the pix... Still, it's gonna be electric to listen to some of my all-time favourite songs - Don't Stand So Close To Me, Message in a Bottle et al.
Can hardly wait... reviews to come...
... and there's more...
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
I can barely believe that it's happening next week.
I remember the first time I ever listened to the Police. It must have been 1979 and I picked up two pirated cassettes (hey, it was 1979). One was the Scorpions' In Trance and the other, Regatta De Blanc, the Police's sophomore album.
Funnily enough, I didn't like the Police at first and found the Scorpions more appealing. Hah!
It didn't take long for repeated listens to change that perspective! And that was the beginning of a love affair that lasts to date.
And... Regatta De Blanc remains my favourite Police album of all time - yes, even when set against Synchronicity. Why? Well, it probably contains the most consistent bunch of top notch songs on any Police album. Message in a Bottle, Walking on the Moon, Bed's Too Big Without You, Bring on the Night, Does Everyone Stare, the awesome title track and so on. Each track was unique and could stand alone on its own, even so-called novelty tracks like Copeland's On Any Other Day crackles today.
That said, most of the Police's discography is a pretty no-dud zone (well, yes, there are a few - Summer's Behind My Camel - what's that about?) and thus, the Message in a Box retrospective is rather essential, not only for Police fans, but for any serious music scholars out there.
But if I had to list my top ten Police tracks, it would have to be...
10. Regatta De Blanc
9. Spirits in the Material World
8. King of Pain
7. Walking on the Moon
6. Driven to Tears
5. De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
3. Synchronicity II
2. Message in a Bottle
1. Don't Stand So Close To Me
Saturday, January 26, 2008
As promised, I want to talk about "quality" of the Singapore music scene, such as it is and how our collective perception of "quality" (as subjective as that word may be) may be the key to the Singapore music scene moving on to the next level.
I must say that I have decided to use the Fasten Your Seatbelts gig to highlight my arguments and this is not meant to be a put down or denigration of any band or any person, for that matter. I hope that this will be taken as constructive and bands will read my comments and use it as feedback to improve their music.
Before all that, kudos must go to Rach for the superb organization behind Fasten Your Seatbelts. Credit also to Syed's Invasion Productions. Having a stage made the difference... although one common complaint about the Guiness Theatre is the aircon (or lack thereof).
I decided to catch the so-called supporting bands in the afternoon as I could not stay for the so-called headliners at night. I missed first band Cardinal Avenue though.
When I arrived, Iron Buddha was finishing up their set. Ostensibly a heavy metal act, I couldn't tell how many originals the band performed but I did hear an unremarkable Slayer cover which got the kids moshing. Now, if you've ever watched foreign heavy metal bands, apart from the loud, crunching guitars, you need a vocalist who is able to grab the attention of the audience with his (or her voice). This is an area in which the Iron Buddha singer needs to work on. Other than that, I didn't have enough time to formulate any other opinion.
Next up - Three Way Street - whom I had seen before at Home Club. These boys play similar emo-tinged pop-rock that the likes of Caracal and West Grand Boulevard pull off rather well. Whilst I applaud their ambition to play an original set, sadly, the songs did not quite hit the mark , lacking internal rhythm (the drummer was all over the place - the timing would shift within the song - and unintentionally mind you) and distinct melodies. Again, the singer needs to brush up somewhat, although to his credit, he did manage to build up a stage presence and appeal during the course of the set, although I don't think that using tissue paper to wipe his sweat was particularly cool but maybe that was his point. Who knows?
Aphonia, whom I did catch at one of the Deafcons before, is a baffling group. Consisting of two girls and four boys, they look like they should be playing at Dragonfly (!) and based on their covers seem to be influenced by Muse, Evanescence and Dream Theater. The problem with playing carbon copy covers next to your originals is that your originals better be great or will pale in comparison. This was exactly the case for Aphonia. Again, the originals lacked distinctiveness and were rather flat. Worse still, the lead singer loves shouting into the microphone (not a good sound) and when the keyboards player joins her on harmonies, invariably it goes off-key. Loads of work required here. Not irrecoverable of course, Aphonia possesses all the raw materials, they really need to come up with a better overall package. Really.
Compared to what had come before, Allura was an absolute godsend and by any measure of justice should have been a headlining band. A band that always tries to reinvent its music and I'm glad to say performed a vastly superior Closure, beefed up to highlight its "quality". The rest of the set held all the familiar elements - combining U2 guitar pyrotechnics, Foo Fighter crunch, jazz flourishes, memorable tunes and of course, the movement of Inch. Sure, there are common references in all the songs but there's no doubting the sheer power of Allura's music. Looking around at the audience, it was obvious that they were sensing it too. Still a band to look out for, 2008 could be Allura's year to shine in the Singapore music scene.
Frankly, I was expecting more from Withered Tree. I had witnessed vocalist Shyam's solo acoustic performance once or twice at Singapore Art Cafe and was suitably impressed. But the leaden, hectoring grunge (ugh!) that greeted me was simply not on. Again, boys and girls, melodies were sorely lacking and where hard rock fails to groove or boogie, there's a problem. I mean, it's got to move you one way or another, either heart, soul or feet. That's where Withered Tree did not quite do it for me. Apologies, Shyam, I so wanted to like it...
I do believe that bands should all be given a chance to play - how else will bands grow and improve? But we must not allow this sense of giving everyone a chance blind us to accept less than satisfactory musical quality. If so, how will cream ever rise to the top? None of the bands I've reviewed above is the finished article. They have strengths and flaws alike. The question is will our scene be nurturing and discerning enough so that these bands will get the critical feedback so that they can address these strengths AND flaws to move on to the next level.
I know that much of what I've written in this entry is unpleasant, may be unpopular and I even expect some hate mail but if we want to mature as a music scene, we need not only to encourage bands but to be brave (and honest) enough to call a spade a spade and let our bands know when they don't quite meet the "musical quality" and (most importantly) why.
...and there's more...
The sound and ambience is first rate and provides the perfect showcase for rising bands in the Singapore music scene.
On Friday (25 Jan 08) night, it was the turn of my good friends, Jack and Rai, to stake their claim as a band to look out for in the Singapore music scene.
And the guys delivered with aplomb!
Backed by Melvin Wong (bass), Vickness (percussion), Joseph Saleem (drums) and Chok Kerong (keys/piano), Jack and Rai premiered all the tracks on their debut album, In Stores Now (alas, not yet available) and the sold out crowd lapped it all up.
I was fortunate enough to get into the venue half an hour early so I could have a front row seat and literally catch the whites of the eyes! And it was worth all the trouble, believe me.
The thing about Jack and Rai is that possibly of all the rising Singaporean bands, perhaps musically I share a certain affinity with the boys in the sense that we both deal in classic rock 'n' pop immortalized in the 70s.
Thus, the songs - whilst anchored in that magical era - covers enough territory to maintain interest throughout. Which means you get power pop (my beloved Fiona - which Jack graciously dedicated to moi!), folk-pop (The Fa La La Song), jazz-pop (Beetle Girl), piano balladry (Hurricane), country rock (Television Affair) and so on.
Which means that In Stores Now is already a winner in my view and with several potential hit radio singles available, I am predicting that the album will make waves in Singapore and abroad. Accessible pop-rock with something for everyone. Ok, I'll leave all that for the album review.
Even more awesome were the encore songs - new track Painted Horses on a Carousel touched on the right points and 3 year-old single This Christmas, a sophisticated 80s jazz-rock gem.
A truly magical night and surely this must be the direction for the Singapore music scene as bands graduate from pubs, clubs and the Substation to headline at the Esplanade Recital Studio and beyond to the Esplanade Concert Hall, the Indoor Stadium and the new National Stadium!!!
It's gonna happen for Jack and Rai...
One more time, with gusto - "FIONA, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO FAR..."
1. Television Affair
...still there's more...
Friday, January 25, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As most of you guys already know, we're sold out for this Friday's show at the Recital Studio -- so to all who bought tickets, thank you so much! We'll see you this Friday 9.30pm sharp okie! Come early so you can get the best seats in the house!
And for those who are interested to know, we've got a real solid line-up that day and it's our honour to have them on the show with us --
Melvin Wong - Bass
Joseph Saleem- Drums
Vickness - Percussion
Chok Kerong - Keys/ Piano
After the concert, we hop down to Timbre at the Arts House so swing'on over! It's just 2min from the Esplanade! :)
See ya there! Come up and say hi!
Congrats to our winners! Your names go into the guest list under mine!
And... here's the schedule of bands... courtesy of Rach.
Three Way Street
West Grand Boulevard
A Vacant Affair
See ya on Saturday - please come up and say hi!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Come and get it!
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I arrived too late to catch Strayvoice but was just in time for the Pinholes. I've not seen the Pinholes play live for sometime now so this was a treat. The boys were their exuberant selves but sadly Haffiz was recovering from a sprained ankle so he was rather subdued. Still that did not stop the kids from groovin' the usual suspects - Shake and Bake, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll and a stomping Spacemen Over Malaysia, that classic Force Vomit nugget. It was a nice change to see boys and girls dancing along, instead of the usual practice of girls trying to get out of the way of the moshing.Now, the last time I saw Force Vomit play was in the 90s and boy, have they 'toughened up' their sound since. The surf-mat-punk had morphed into something muscular & heavy, neither metal or hardcore, the best way to describe it would be garage-rock. Whatever it was, the kids lapped it up and the moshing began in earnest. The crowd continued to swell and there must have been more than 300 bodies crushed together as Dino and gang held court. The kids hung on every riff and every word, the band was certain the master of its own domain. The guitars were thick and the drums thunderous, a feisty sound that reveled in big drums and direct guitars.
Saw many cool people there too viz. Song & Huzaifah (GSE), Josh, JBarks & Chris (Fire Fight), Syed (WGB), George Chua, Dex (*scape), Esmond (VR/WMUM), Ronny & Jon (Plain Sunset) ... all told a fun Singapore Music Scene night...
... and there's more ...
For those born in the late 80s or 90s, BigO (Before I Get Old) was Singapore's premier independant music magazine during that heady era. I was privileged enough to write for BigO from 1992 to its demise as a print magazine a couple of years ago.
In any case, as a bit of a history lesson, I've decided to highlight a few items from past BigOs which I found interesting and hope that you, S-ROCK faithful readers, will also fund rewarding and illuminating. If you want the real deal, I think you can still order back issues from the BigO site and of course, all the images are (c) Options Publications Pte Ltd/BigO. Comments, please.
First off, some pix from a gig called ACOUSTIC POWER JAM which took place sometime in the latter half of 1993 at the MPH Power House at Stamford Road. If you don't know where the heck I'm talking about, man, are you young.... :) As you can see from the pix, I believe it was one of my first performances as Watchmen and it was fun... other than that, it's a bit of a blank... enjoy.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Since the beginning of 2008, I have been gathering my thoughts about the
First, I would like to suggest that we stop using the terms “indie” or “local” when we refer to our scene. Instead, I would encourage everyone to simply call it the “
The word “indie” is a particularly contentious one and often leads to arguments and divisiveness (and of course, bloody noses). I believe that the
The word “local music” unfortunately has a very negative connotation in
Thus, we would say that the Great Spy Experiment is a Singaporean rock band, much as we would describe Radiohead as a British rock band or Switchfoot as an American rock band.
I want to see the Singapore music scene viewed as a mark of quality (that word, again) and that Singaporean bands be accorded the same respect as an American or British band before the music becomes an issue. Why do we expect an American or British band to be superior just because of their country of origin? That should never a criterion. But because we know that there are great American and British bands out there in the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll, so we take it for granted that an American or British band is going to be of a certain quality.
However, when it comes to Singaporean bands, we lack that similar confidence. Now, let me tell you that (generally speaking) music fans overseas have no such prejudice about where the band comes from, only if their music is any good. All of our bands who have played overseas will testify to this fact.
On my next entry, I will elaborate a little more about “quality of music” and why that may be the key to Singaporean’s acceptance (and support) of the
… still there’s more …
Another Epic Story
The Oslo Castaways
You & Whose Army?
Personally, I'm really pleased for You and Whose Army?, Leeson and PeepShow! But really for each band on the list, the hard work starts now... :)
... and there's more ...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Here's what you have to do, dear boys and girls.
Tell me in 25 words or less, who is the hottest band performing at Fasten Your Seatbelts.
Please send your entries to soulalt (at) gmail (dot) com before 11.30pm, Sunday, 20 January 2008 and I'll announce the winners on Tuesday, 22 January 2008.
So, what ya waiting for?
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
What is the story behind “lowercase people”? What does it mean?
What is its vision and philosophy?
What were your reasons for leaving a major label and starting
we want to see things change all over the globe.
we want to bring other people who inspire us up on the platform we've been
What kind of music does lp records intend to release?
Would lp release a Singaporean band (like the Fire Fight or West Grand Boulevard, who are opening for you)? What would it take for that to happen?
but maybe someday we will be able to provide more for other bands.
when we know that we can do this with excellence we will try and figure it out.
we have no intentions of becoming "big business"...
How does the band prepare for a tour? What is the best thing about touring?
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Of course, there's nothing quite like listening to the band live and in June 2007, at the Rock the Substation gig, I finally got my chance (better late ...) and I've been enjoying B-Quartet since. So, now armed with a copy of their debut album (thanks, Willy), and having listened to the CD as much as humanly possible, here's the blow-by-blow account of Tomorrow Is Our Permanent Address.
When Mathematics Fails - The album opens with electronic noise setting up the rhythm for which the breezy acoustic guitar provides a steady introduction for the track's bouncy pace. Mathematics is an easing into the charms of B-Quartet. Nothing too intricate, almost a simple pop song (by B-Quartet's standard). The pleasing backing vocals on the coda is truly unique.
Shoebox - The coup de grace. Piano ballads normally suggest sentimental cheesiness, but with sound effects lurking behind singer Bani Haykal's heartfelt vocals and the wafting backing vox embellishing the spine-tingling chorus, the experience is like soaking in perfection. The band keeps the focus and discipline throughout, never weakening to temptation to dress Shoebox with a guitar solo or jarring changes, they just let the gorgeous melody work its magic. And magical it is...
Personal Space - This is where the album begins to stretch its wings and soar into experimental skies. Beginning with Haykal and a child-like keyboard riff before launching into an strident emo-tinged segment with screaming guitars and illuminating harmonies then finally settling into an outgoing disco-fied groove and ending on a discordant horn sample. Brilliant!
Disp rs - The Radiohead reference is most pronounced here, even though the track also contains the most conventional jazz guitar playing on the album, making Disp rs a heady trip into alt-jazz territory (think - Steely Dan). Haykal gives an impassioned vocal performance that recalls the late great Jeff Buckley.
Alphanumeric - Holds some affinity with When Mathematics Fails with its combination of electronic noise and acoustic guitar (the rhythm playing is awesome!), with dare I say, a stronger tune. But only up to the point when the band turns left with a jaunty showtune and then cuts loose by upping the ante on the previously meek and casual verse. Throw in a death metal guitar riff (Go!) and the disorientation is complete. Ambitious! I'd love to hear this on 98.7!!!
Stupid Luxury - Next to Shoebox, the jewel in the crown. A serpentine guitar line snakes around a start-stop beat and leads into a keening chorus that leaps from the speakers (or headphones - highly recommended) and then plunges into a feisty rock-out. Such control of space and timing is certainly rare as post-rock elements collide with jazz balladry to produce a special track that always keeps you guessing and never stays in the comfort zone. Outstanding.
Not An Ink Blot - The happy feel of this tune belies the dark undertones bubbling ("A little hiccup during lunch") with the counterpoint of the oddly nursery rhyme quality of the chorus. Perhaps the weakest track here, though.
Boutique - The band attacks this jumping song with gusto, right from the get-go. The chorus is atonal and a tad inaccessible but the band compensates with a beautiful classical guitar break which reminds me of classic prog rock (Genesis!). Not to mention - finally - twin guitar solos!!! Astounding shades of mood explored and exploited. No mean feat! "Morbidly fun!"
Kleptomania - With squalling guitar and pummeling drums, this track is the heaviest of the album. Yet, the band decides to mix the tone with a soothing choral line and then varying the intensity and melody of the guitar riff - and the pseudo-Arabic scatting by Haykal - wow! The song structure never keeps still long enough for you to get jaded.
Beautiful Crash - Another touching ballad - just Haykal and acoustic/classical guitars initially - with a chorus that brought tears to my eyes - awesome chord progression that takes the breath away. Of course, the band embarks on a high speed chase which breaks up the momentum somewhat but tastefully executed as always. It matters not, I'll take that sublime chorus home anytime. Sheer poetry in motion.
"Hidden Track (1)" - Track 11 aka Lullaby, as it's title suggests is a little gentle ditty perhaps the Bani boys hope will catch on amongst new parents. It's a sweet little track but a tad inconsequential, I'm afraid...
"Hidden Track" - Track 42 aka Fireplace, boys and girls! The band goes whole hog alt-rock with intense guitar riffing intro before teasing us with flamenco flourishes, a total breakdown of pace and Beach Boys harmonies (I kid you not, albeit lower key) that lead us gently out...
What more can I say? This album has got to be heard to be believed. I have previously expressed reservations about the commercial viability of such complex, intelligent music and I still believe that to a certain extent but if Radiohead, Arcade Fire, the Decemberists and Modest Mouse can conquer the mainstream planet then why not our very own B-Quartet?
Kudos to Bani Haykal, Bani Faizal, Bani Hidir and Bani Raizan, you have done the Singapore music scene proud!
Available at all good music stores, need I say "essential purchase"? Go now!
More info - here and there.
Why organize local gigs?
For me, it is my passion and my utmost interest to organise and plan events. I love to work with people. You can also say that it the least I can do to play my part in the scene.
What do you do in the “real” world?
In my “real” world, I help run a monthly gig called ‘Deafcon’ and I am currently organising Fasten Your Seatbelts!. I love music with a red hot passion and I play a bit of drums. Other than that, I'm a student, taking Multimedia and Infocomm in Nanyang Poly. Currently doing my final year attachment. I go to work all day long and shake my leg.
How did the idea of Fasten Your Seatbelts! come about?
Well, my friend and I were studying for our Math paper one night. We were talking over the phone (whilst studying) about the school's band competition (BandzOut 2006/07) that we were part of (I was the co-organiser of that event.). Then suddenly, I exclaimed, "Let's organise a Halloween gig!" We got really excited about it, I closed my book, took out a piece of paper and started writing out the general details and stuff. Unfortunately, the Halloween gig did not happen as the school was not supportive of it in terms of sponsoring cash and a venue. So I told myself that I was going to organise my own event, outside of school. It was scary at first; seeing that I did not have any experience organising an event from scratch (which included seeking out for sponsors and such) Luckily, I met a few people like eXe, who helped guide me through; Kenneth, who funded the whole show; Lil'rampage, who helped me along the way with certain details here and there. Without them, I might not have been able to make the first installment of Fasten Your Seatbelts!, as successful as it was.
What was the criteria for band selection?
Basically, I want a gig which involves bands of different genres, bands who have more or less carved their name in the scene, and young bands. For the previous and the current Fasten Your Seatbelts!, I made sure that for each 'young' band in the lineup, I had an experienced band. This is to allow the young bands to play together with their more experienced counterparts so as to garner exposure and experience while building their confidence level as musicians.
How did you get involved in the local music scene?
I can say that my first time attending a local gig was when I went to watch Summer's Over at the Woodlands Community Club. That sparked off my curiosity and interest to watch bands perform live. What really got me involved was when I helped organise my school’s annual band competition. I was scouting for guest bands and judges and through that, I got to know more people who are so much more involved in the scene. Made friends with them and yeah, took my first official step into the scene.
What can the fans expect to get out of Fasten Your Seatbelts?
Look at the lineup, I think everyone would know what to expect!
What has been your favourite local gig so far?
The first installment of Deafcon (24th March 2007); Although it had only 3 bands (Bad Obsession, Firebrands and West Grand Boulevard), they were (and are still) three of my favourite bands to watch live on stage without any interruptions in-between.
Where do you see the local music scene one year from now?
To be honest, I really don’t know! However, I can safely say that right now, we are getting more support from the younger generation. I’m saying this based on my observation from running Deafcon.
Inspiring and encouraging to know that the local music scene is in good hands for the forseeable future. With dedicated folk like Rach behind the scenes, the future's so bright...
... and there's more...
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Personally, Stasis 10 was my first gig in quite a while. Well, a gig in which I was not performing but watching, that is.
I got to the Substation early to catch the soundchecks and caught a few certainly. A little disappointed to see the lack of a stage and concerned about the implications.
The bands that played in the afternoon had maybe twenty people for an audience. Which is a bit of a shame. Someone remarked to me that perhaps it's not a good idea to hold a gig on a Saturday afternoon. It was the same for Rock the Sub as well - so might be some truth in that.
I mean as much as I admire the ambition of these events - eleven bands in eight hours - sometimes I wonder if it's all a little too much. Perhaps, it would be better to maybe have a gig that starts at night - one main headliner and two opening bands. Or something like that.
Of course, the main objection to this arrangement would be less opportunities for bands although I do not seriously think that this is a problem if the forum posts at SOFT are anything to go by.
Anyways... not to take anything away from the superlative achievement of NUS OMS in putting it all together...
What I'm trying to say is that these "rojak" events do have bit of a downside in that the earlier bands do not get the exposure you might expect. That said, its promising to see local bands opening for bigger foreign bands e.g. Fire Fight and West Grand Boulevard for Switchfoot at the end of the month. Also encouraging to learn about more CD launches and more local headlining gigs at the Esplanade Recital Studio. This is the direction I want to see our local scene go... a local band selling out the Indoor Stadium, now that's a goal to work towards... who would it be?
Monday, January 07, 2008
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Overall, I think Stasis 10 was a massive success - not only in terms of the audience response but also in the sheer range of local bands that were featured. Apart from metal, almost every genre got a fair hearing today.
Predictably, the crowd was thin in in the afternoon sessions but those who stayed away missed great performances from You and Whose Army?, PeepShow and Leeson.
YaWA showcased a couple of new tunes and I liked the fact that the band took risks to push the envelope of its developing sound. Focusing on mid-tempo spacey rock, there was quite a lot of room for the music to breathe, so to speak. PeepShow is a hard-hitting, energetic powerpop outfit with a punkish edge. Frontman Zaki does a grand job in engaging the audience and he has a good set of pipes, to boot. Look forward to their EP coming out in April. Leeson specializes in Britpop approximations, aided in no small part by Jamie, their Brit vocalist. Brandishing influences from the Beatles to Oasis, the band entertained with their sharp pop smarts and witty banter. Crowd pleasers but on their own terms.
The highlights of the evening no doubt were B-Quartet and the Great Spy Experiment. A B-Quartet performance is always about finese and power - an iron fist in a velvet glove - their entire set seemed to disappear in an instant with Personal Space, Stupid Luxury & Disp R:S lighting up the proceedings. Willy passed me the B-Quartet album and it's now playing even as I write this - PHENOMENAL - but that's another blog entry (Shoebox - AWESOME!!!). Don't wait, though, get it NOW!
And GSE... wow! The crowd simply went ape shit. Although I can take no credit for anything GSE has achieved, I felt so PROUD. The crowd sang along, dance, waved, clapped their hands and appreciated the band - WONDERFUL! Late Nite Request sent chills down my spine...Yet, I sensed a little restlessness within the band as they tried to reinvent their oh-so-recognizable songs in an attempt to freshen things up.
Honourable mentions must go out to: -
Ivy's Vendetta - Local Radiofriendly pop-rock that draws heavily from 90s rock.
Fishtank - I'm not big on ska punk but they really got the audience going with their last song.
Vertical Rush - An energized display with drummer Daren an entertaining distraction. Poor Esmond was suffering from a sore throat (like many other performers today) but the honesty and passion of the performance shone through.
Amateur Takes Control - A modern take on classic instrumental bands like the Shadows, Dick Dale and the Ventures, it takes quite a bit of ambition and no small talent to touch the audience without words.
Kudos must go to the NUS Original Music Society, to Johnson and company for organizing this great showcase of local bands, albeit their final effort or so it seems. One caveat though, having the band on the same level (i.e. ground) as the audience is impractical. When the entire crowd stood up for GSE, noone past the second row could see anything and what's the point if you can't see the band?
A minor quibble as the local scene got a tremendous kick-off for 2008 today.
...still there's more...
Friday, January 04, 2008
After launching his solo career with Dream of the Blue Turtles, in 1985, Sting was asked if there would ever be a reunion of The Police. Sting's answer was typically contemptuous - "No, it would be like going back to kindergarten!" His jazz-tinged album had became an international hit, fuelling Sting's solo ambitions and confirmation that he could make it without his band mates.
By 1983, The Police were the biggest rock group on the planet. Their fifth album, Synchronicity, managed to put the philosophies of Carl Jung at the very top of the Billboard Charts and "Every Breath You Take" became the best-selling single of that year. The band had released five albums in six years and following an exhausting world tour embarked on a sabbatical from which they never properly returned.
In fact, Sting would go back into the recording studio with his band mates Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers in 1986 but severe creative differences - Sting wanted to re-record the band's greatest hits whilst Copeland and Summers insisted on new material. Sting, perhaps mindful of his own promising solo career was unwilling to let The Police record his songs anymore. The band only existed in name and the writing was on the wall. The mind-boggling success The Police would eventually achieve would have been unimaginable for the trio when the original Police line-up viz Sting (real name - Gordon Sumner) on bass and vocals, Stewart Copeland on drums and Henri Padovani on guitar, independently released their debut single, "Fallout" in 1976. The single's failure to attract anyone's attention made it all the easier for Sting and Copeland to allow Andy Summers into the band, a move which led to the eventual departure of Padovani.
Summers was a good ten years older than Sting and Copeland and had played with the New Animals and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band during the 1960s. Summers' arrival accentuated the main strength of the band - their differences. Copeland, an American living in England had played progressive rock with Curved Air and brought in the percussive ska/reggae influences; Sting, a erstwhile teacher and ditch digger, performed with many jazz-rock bands with the inevitable jazz inclinations and Summers, a veteran of the British invasion had the experience and the technical expertise (he was a classically trained guitarist) the fledging band required.
With the respective backgrounds in mind, it is ironic that in the latter 1970s, The Police had been closely associated with the punk-new wave movement - an association quickly discredited when they dyed their hair blond for a Wrigleys' commercial. This event would give The Police their enduring image of the blond punk trio. That image would give them the edge in getting their music heard. The fact of the matter was that in terms of the music, The Police were creating something new out of the fusion of reggae, punk, jazz and pop-rock.
Summers' precise guitar attack created dense, interlocking waves of sounds and effects reminiscent of Robert (King Crimson) Fripp, Copeland's complex and unconventional (for rock drummers anyway) polyrhythms providing the driving force and Sting's high, keening voice, infectiously catchy pop songs and drop dead gorgeous good looks translated into a potential that could take over the rock world.
And it was that final element that would bring them fame and fortune. The first three albums - Outlandos D'Amour, Regatta De Blanc and Zenyatta Mondatta - were overall spotty affairs but contained some of the best pop singles of its time. "Roxanne," "Message in a Bottle," "Walking on the Moon," "Don't Stand So Close To Me" and "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da" brought The Police into the Top Ten singles and album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and increasing worldwide audience that culminated into wildly received world tours.
However, the tensions within the band were beginning to take its toll as stories of in-fighting and disputes began to surface. One particularly telling incident was recorded at a French show in 1980 where Sting reacted angrily to a fan spitting on him but noticeably Copeland and Summers were unmoved. Instructive perhaps that written on Copeland's drums were certain expletives that were aimed at his lead singer!
By the beginning of 1981, the Police were able to sell out Madison Square Garden. The band returned to the studio in the summer of 1981 to record their fourth album. Sting's influence over the band was virtually sacrosanct. The resulting album - Ghost in the Machine - was more experimental with Sting playing horns and keyboards and carried a dark political overtone with songs like "Invisible Sun" and "Spirits in the Material World" However, it was due to the ska-jazz ditty "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" - their biggest single to date - that made the album an instant hit. Which brings us full circle to mega-selling Synchronicity - The Police's finest hour and conversely the beginning of their demise…
The Police were a unique band - utilizing the energy of punk without being distracted by its nihilism. Whilst there have been imitators (Men at Work and the Outfield) and disciples (dada, Verve Pipe, Live), none of these bands have managed to re-create the spirit of The Police's freewheeling, genre-bending, appealing style.
Personally, the era the Police was viable (1978 to 1983) were exciting times - they represented many things to many people - commercial and cutting edge; romantic and political; studio perfectionists and powerful 'live' performers.
Just take a glance at the charts in 2001 to see how bad things have become - we could do with the next Police right about now…
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Not to be missed, I'm sure...
Let's see if I can get the boys to share a little bit about the making of the album and the songs...
... stay tuned!
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
A labour of love from a creative, dedicated individual calling himself sojourner, this reviews blog is an indispensable resource for all fans of Singapore rock.
Whilst we celebrate the current Singapore rock revival, it is vital that we chronicle the great music that came a decade or so before. And Rock in the Fine City does this so well...
It is a well written, well researched site that I highly recommend.
Check it out!
Just digging thru a pile of old cassettes and see what I found -
The Oddfellows - Seven Year Itch
AWOL - Midnight in June
The Pagans - Hideaway
Livonia - Self
Eza - Ain't Ready for Monday
The Pilgrims - Away from the Numbers
S.U.D.S. - Invasion of the Killer S.U.D.S.
Various - M.I.S. Vol 2
Various - Gang Bang
Sad thing is almost none of these bands are still around...must be something we can do to preserve these historical recordings... any thoughts?
Still, I just want to close out my thoughts on 2007 by talking a little about the bands that impressed me in our local music scene last year and what I hope to see from them in 2008. Bearing in mind that though I did certainly catch a few gigs in 2007, I believe that there are still many great bands out there that I still haven’t had the joy and privilege to witness and savor.
Allura – Yes, saw a lot of Allura last year and believe that 2008 will be a crucial year for the band. Great live performances, catchy jazz-inflected alt-rock material and a dynamic frontperson all add up to tremendous potential. With an EP coming up as well. Keep your eye on Allura!
Andrew Chen – Truthfully, I’ve only really seen Andrew once but was bowled over by his confidence and versatile vocals. With the right grooming, I think that mainstream success is a distinct possibility with his pleasing jazz-pop repertoire.
Bad Obsession - Genuine cock-rockers or just rockin’ cocks? These guys really look and sound the part with their authentic take on the Stones, Aerosmith and GNR. Having not heard their originals, I will reserve my comments but they blaze thru their classic rock covers with aplomb and some…
Bhelliom - Not my cup of tea but I recognize ability when I see it. It’s not hard to see why our local metal exponents obviously have the greatest chance to make an impact outside our shores & Bhelliom, with its hard hitting thrash metal chops and Vivek’s authoritative growl, seem to be a good bet to do so.
B-Quartet - Perhaps, technically, the best band in Singapore now. Modern progressive rock at its finest. Now beefed up to a sextet, the group blew audiences away whenever they performed though they may be more classified as a musicians’ band. Whatever, with a new album out to prime, it’s going to be a big year for B-Quartet.
Etc - Good old Ben Harrison has been reduced to a solo act but you know, with the kind of articulated, witty songs that Ben parlays, you never notice that too much. Don’t put too much stock in that “cerebral” moniker, Ben is a rocker and I’m hoping to see him cut loose in 2008!
Firebrands - Credit where it’s due. Firebrands have built up their reputation as a ‘happening’ modern hard rock band by investing into the scene and venturing overseas. The Deafcon series has gone a long way in establishing the rock/metal scene here and the kids certainly love it.
Goodfellas - One of the top covers band around – tight and entertaining – they do give the people exactly what they want. Despite myself, I often find myself singing along… Would love to hear their originals, if any, because they already have the base to build themselves around. What say you fellas?
Great Spy Experiment - Late Night Request, The Great Decay, Class ‘A’ Love Affair, A Kind of Love etc. Need I say more? Songs that will still be remembered a decade or more from now. Sure, performing with GSE, gave me an invaluable insight into what makes GSE ticks – believe me, talent and inspiration (and perspiration) – and the willingness to play to a disco beat (!) all make for a wondrous package. Now the challenge – new material…
Indus Gendi - Sometimes I think that Indus is trying a little too hard to be a baby B-Quartet. But you’ve got to admire the ambition. Actually, Esther is the key to propel the band to a different level. Then and Now is one of my fave tracks and if I had my way, that’s the direction I’d have them pursue. However, the melodic jazz-emo-postrock hybrid currently informing their repertoire will do nicely as well.
Jack & Rai/EIC - I love these guys. Really. Accomplished musicians & talented singer-songwriters. Definitely operating in the same milieu as yours truly and that in itself is appreciated! Much anticipated debut album has been delayed, I understand, so one to look out for this year. “FI-ONA!”
King Kong Jane - Mainstream indie is probably a weird term but I believe it applies to KKJ. The songs are muscular and sinewy pop-rock with an 'indie' edge. Frontman Colin is an excellent focal point for the audience to hook on to as well. Personally, I believe that KKJ has the greatest potential to replicate the success of GSE in mixing commercial and artistic concerns. One to watch out for in 2008...
Marchtwelve - Am beginning to appreciate Dewi, Joseph and co a little more and more. I guess reviewing their Not Just A Date EP helped me to value some of the tunes more, which at times did not really come off live. Still Dewi’s strong vocals always come across passionate but sensitive and Joseph’s arsenal of guitar skills always thrill, so definitely the complete live package. Hopefully, a full length album is in the works.
Pinholes - Ah, the people’s band. Pinholes always make me laugh – with them, not at them, mind. They look like they having so much fun on stage and that is so infectious, you cannot help but be swept away with the emotion. You’ve got to admire them for their dogged retro-futurist vision and those melodies! Sublime. New EP is out now so expect a review soon…
Plain Sunset – I must confess I have under-estimated Plain Sunset a little bit since returning to the local scene. You see, back in the day (mid-90s), they were this little punk-pop band that my only connection to was borrowing Ronny (the drummer) for a gig with Popland (we did 70s punk covers). However, I was pleasantly shocked by the response given to Plain Sunset at Baybeats ’07. That was a gig and a half. So props to the boys – I’ve been hearing a Plain Sunset song on Star World’s Heroes’ ads – amazing! A new album is due soon… can’t wait!
Stoned Revivals - Another veteran of the scene truly inspired me one night at the Singapore National Museum’s Homemade gig with ten musicians on stage. Truly awesome to behold and the jazz-soul-funk mix that resulted was a ride as well. What ambition, I thought. With leader Esam in KL, not much is happening with Stoned Revivals but I really hope to see more from this unique band.
The Fire Fight - Every few bands manage to connect with the audience. The Fire Fight achieves this connection with every succeeding show. Despite their music being a little complicated and heady at times, the showmanship and transparency of leader Josh Tan transcends any such difficulty to translate the songs into rock music of immediacy, vibrancy and yes, integrity. The next big thing…
Timmy/Ngak - The band that never rehearses is how Ngak described Timmy to me. The band did a wonderful job covering alt-rock tunes that catered very much to the twentysomethings. If anything, Ngak is a true blue Singapore rock star (I hesitate to use the term ‘Idol’), and it may well be in the Mandopop scene that he is finally recognized although he has written a couple of English rock songs that are phenomenal. Our eternal loss? After 881, guitar hero HYR is now the darling of the Chinese press so his time with Timmy is diminishing. It doesn’t really matter which scene, Ngak and HYR strike it really big, as long as they do…and they will.
You and Whose Army? - Another baby band that is still learning its trade, so to speak, YAWA has several secret weapons up its sleeve, that when fully developed, will take the scene by storm. Bonk’s songwriting, derived from diverse influences from Radiohead to Bjork; James’ stellar guitar work, grounded in five decades of rock guitar styles; Adam’s musicianship and Beni’s consistency. Not the finished package yet, by any means, but the possibilities are endless.
And I know that that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There was so much happening in the local music scene in 2007 but there is still a lot of ground to cover to bring it to a level it deserves both at home and abroad. You can do your part by attending gigs, purchasing CDs and supporting the bands you love. Oh and don’t forget to tell all your friends about local music.
… still there’s more…