ALBUM REVIEW: THE OBSERVATORY – AUGUST IS THE CRUELLEST

PHILIPP ALDRUP Obs 2016-16_01_OBS_258
Philipp Aldrup

“… we wanted the music to embody the extremities of our current realities. Conflict, pain, anguish, heartbreak, discrimination together with moments of loneliness, gentleness, helplessness and melancholy. A perspective that is not just solely Singaporean, but human.Leslie Low, The Observatory.

Observers of the local music scene love talking about the ‘Singapore sound’ as if it was something that could be put in a box. Is it even relevant or meaningful in a globally connected world like ours? Neither here or there.

Well, the best thing I can say about The Observatory is that I don’t even think of them as a Singapore band – but simply as one of the finest art rock bands out there, without exception.

Prolific as hell, The Obs return with a new album – August is the Cruellest – that might just be their most accessible of their recent releases. Maybe since Dark Folke it would seem.

Longtime fans will appreciate August as a development from Oscilla & also understand that it is the first album since the departure of founding member Dharma.

Musically not quite as heavy as Catacombs or Oscilla, with elements of folk and psychedelia providing relief in the heavy rock noise context of the songwriting & performance. However, lyrically, there is a barely restrained anger at the state of the world. A stronger political awareness perhaps?

Conceived within the context of last year’s environmental haze disaster and the relentless propaganda machine that was SG50, the lyrics pull no punches.

‘These pacifiers stuck inside our mouths/Spit ’em out if we have a conscience/I’ll never be a party to this I will never ever/It’s retarded’ (“Wait for the real storm”)

‘You have no heart/Your heart is lying’ (“You have no heart”)

‘All I hope for is justice/Soon to be served/So we can finally heal/No baggage/
And all the children of those maligned can heal too/And the guilty ones can finally show their faces’ (“The weight of it all”)

When it comes to the art and craft of The Observatory, it will always be about concept and technique but without eschewing the heart and soul of being human. August is the Cruellest succeeds at every level.

This is progressive rock with a conscience. A rarity anywhere in 2016. Bravo!

August is the Cruellest is available now.