ASTRONINJA Kiss My Astro! (Self released)
Singaporean musicians have managed to achieve some semblance of pedigree since the mid-90s when we were nothing but a scene that celebrated itself. OK fine, I’ll admit, a substantial proportion of us (completely impartial commentaries notwithstanding) are still stuck in that rut.
I’ve know I’ve been on about this like a broken record, but I’ll say it again; it takes pure, unadulterated bollocks to shove the mighty little finger in the “scene’s” face and rise above the sad institutionalization of circle-jerking cliques and carebear support groups who wear their affiliations on their sleeves.
Constituted by members who have each paid their ample share of dues to the community, Astroninja is probably one the closest things we’ll ever get to an all-star shootout. Originally formed under the moniker Astroninja All-Stars as a one-night-only supergroup at Rock For Wayne, the band has since settled into a more permanent configuration, dropping the postfix in favour of the spunkier alternative.
After emerging from a year in the studio noodling and tweaking their sound, these purveyors of “Astro-rock” have seen their laborious efforts come to fruition in the form of Kiss My Astro! their 11-track LP. Sealed in an obnoxiously large yellow sleeve, the package also includes a Bobby (the band mascot, he is lamb, you know!?) badge, stickers bearing the cartoon likenesses of each member, and a self-explanatory Ninja Card. Unorthodox? Definitely. Moreover, the band would be quick to slap you across the head with a giant trout to remind you that that’s EXACTLY how they like it.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen any of the fellows in a while, it’s because they haven’t been maintaining an active calendar of gigs. That’s right, no gigs at all, at least, not yet. They have chosen to forgo some of the more traditional promotional elements to focus on their music. Not surprisingly, it seems to be working a lot better for them than some of the more current models, which in my opinion, are considerably flawed.
As is the case with any “supergroup”, the omnipresent question of par proximity is bound to arise. How well does Kiss My Astro! (yes, with the exclamation mark, none of that let’s-cut-the-word-in-half-cos-we-r-kool crap) match up to its eminent expectations?
The first thing you notice about the album is its astronomically (you shall have to excuse my puns, I have been trapped in headline hell for well over a week now) tasteful guitar works, which draw equally from classic, driving rock, a reckless street-punk ethos, and appropriately applied effects. With this in mind, you’d half expect a disappointingly unfocused delivery to follow, considering the bands utterly random inclinations with regards to content. Not so. These are paired with thundering, amply-filled rhythmwork, and a searing vocal style delivered with a nuclear excess of aplomb.
The vocals are an entire area of consideration on their own. So important to the direction of this album, that I reckon they deserve their own paragraph. If you find the voice screaming back at you familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard it before. Singer Levan Wee, former frontman of Ronin, returns with a very apparent maturation to his howls, taming the mayhem of his Revolution and Do What Thou Wilt days, and channeling the underlying energy to drive messages of liberation, anti-conformity and self-empowerment, all with subtle undertones of politically-fallacious humour.
That’s not to say that every song is a searing Johnny Ramone buzzsaw affair, there is plenty of ambient goodness to be had (check out the soaring introduction to Cacophony, the albums epilogue) along with uncommonly compelling vocal explorations (Jess, Thunder, Anthem For The Ordinary et al.)
All in all, an album that covers plenty of ground, all while managing to stay firmly rooted to its key principles. Astroninja’s 100% home-blended political incorrectness is something we are in dire need of around here.
KMA! is without a doubt, the most exciting S-Rock album to have emerged from 2008. Watch out for more from the Astro boys this year: the time of the Ninja approaches.
Check out Astroninja’s Myspace page.