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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

HAPPY 2008!

And so a new year has come… and everything seems fresh again. I mean, what’s the difference between yesterday and today? It feels good nonetheless…

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…

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

i would add zero sequence to this list!

myspace.com/zerosequence

Anonymous said...

hello kevin...

i dun really know you.... and i dun really know how much water your opinions hold...

i dun know how many gigs you've been to nor how involved you are in the scene...

so how much i can trust and believe what you say is quite difficult...

but i do applaud your efforts....

how about bands like fatskunks, oslo castaways, say whale, AVA, caracal, comic strip, Glitched roots project, zero sequence, page, BARB, psychedelic 4, ivy's vendetta etc etc etc?

Anonymous said...

yes zero sequence would definately be a nice add!

Anonymous said...

I think we should just chill at this post. These are just his personal opinions, not that some official write-up on the local scene for the dailies or mags.

20 cents worth said...

zero sequence is pretty underated i feel. incredible bunch as a whole who takes their music direction differently from most local bands. like the banis, they're the musician's musicians. you have to give it up to them.

Anonymous said...

for those who don't know, kevin has been in the local scene longer than anyone of us has been. he's been there since before the local scene went flat, when it was still vibrant.

and even with that much experience, u can't expect him to be some immortal who can remember every single local band cuz u have to admit there are so many local bands in singapore. if u were the one writing this post, will you be able to list down EVERY single band just to make everyone happy?

besides, accept it that not everyone shares the same cup of tea. maybe he just doesn't dig the music u dig?