PoP10 – DAVID MEAD

11579729

1. Why play music?

It is the most effective way to get people to like me.

2. Who are your influences?

Sheryll Mead, Hendrik Hertzberg, Harry Nilsson, Hunter S. Thompson, Paul Simon, Eckhart Tolle

3. What is success?

Being completely content and enthusiastic about what you are doing at any given moment.

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because I need the money to make more of it.

5. Who do you love?

Journalists and bloggers, primarily.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Whatever the listener requires from it.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Outcasts, dreamers, people waiting for the next band to start. And my fans.

8. What is your favorite album?

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Original Broadway Cast Recording

9. What is your favorite song?

“One Man’s Poop Is Another Man’s Puddin'”by Yoni Oates

10. How did you get here?

My father took my mother to a business convention in San Francisco, got a room at the Holiday Inn on Market Street and violated her.

David Mead’s new album, Almost & Always will be out on September 1st on Cheap Lullaby Records.

EMINEM

Relapse_(album)

EMINEM Relapse (Aftermath/Universal)

It’s hard to believe that rapper Eminem aka Marshall Mathers aka Slim Shady has been around for more than ten years now. Since his low-key debut Infinite (1997), Eminem has gone on to sell more than 75 million records and in doing so has cut for himself a controversial path. Like Elvis Presley before him, Eminem has been accused for being yet another white boy who stole the blues. In addition, Eminem’s graphic representations of violence, misogyny and anti-homosexuality in his “music” has courted criticism and has been described as a negative influence on youth. However, there are also those who argue that Eminem is merely a commentator, highlighting (and thus, lampooning) the ills of society and not celebrating the topics of his “songs”.

Personally, I find it hard to listen to rap in general, for the fact that it’s not music (in my humble opinion) but merely words spoken rhythmically over a repetitive score, without musical value. Of course, in the 50s and 60s, I’m sure many shared these views about rock ‘n’ roll. Not to mention, the shock tactics that Eminem employs in communicating attitudes against women and homosexuals. Yet again, the same accusations of misogyny were levelled against the Rolling Stones and KISS in the 70s. So…

Let’s give Eminem the benefit of the doubt then. Having been on hiatus since 2005 amidst persistent rumours that he had retired as a performer, his first album in 4 years is not characterized as a “comeback” but rather humorously described as a “relapse”. The opening track – Dr. West (featuring actor Dominic West) – introduces us to the concept i.e. Eminem is out of rehab but the evil Dr.West tempts Eminem’s alter ego Slim Shady out of the cage and all hell breaks loose. Reading between the lines, is Eminem’s mega-selling rap act, a disease and an addiction? Hurm.

And thus, over the course of this 20-track album, Slim Shady is up to his old tricks. On Bagpipes from Babylon, Slim Shady obsesses over Mariah Carey – “I mean I really want ya bad ya cunt”, on My Mom, he goes all confessional as he gushes – “My mom loved Valium and lots of drugs”, on Insane, he reminisces about his step-father’s abuse – “we going out back-I want my dick sucked in the shed”, on Stay Wide Awake, he expresses his own violent inclinations – “see whore you’re da kinda girl I’d like to assault and rape and figure why not try to make your pussy wider/fuck you with an umbrella then open it up when the shit’s inside you” and… need I go on?

In the final analysis, reading these lyrics can be pretty stark although the impact is mitigated somewhat when you hear the silly music and the cartoony way in which Eminem delivers the words. You may say that Eminem has his finger on the pulse of US society and is merely reflecting reality (perhaps exaggerating for effect) in the same way as popular TV shows, films and video games do. Or you can dismiss him as an exploitative hatemonger. The choice is yours, as always.

Me? I’m sitting firmly on the barb-wire fence. Strictly for hardcore rap fans only.

PoP10 – ALMOST CHARLIE

l_9da3414382bfe0a00002b42dfc734fbb

Dirk Homuth supplies the answers…

1. Why play music?

I can’t imagine not playing music. For some reason I always wanted to, since my early childhood. I even remember having desperately tried to build a guitar myself as a child because it was very difficult to get hold of one in the former GDR (East Germany), where I come from.

2. Who are your influences?

The famous ones, whose influence probably some people might notice are songwriters from Nick Drake to Elliott Smith or bands from The Kinks to Travis. But there are also a lot of influences coming from less known great songwriters in my neighborhood who I meet and play with from time to time.

3. What is success?

To me success starts in my own room after having written a song that I really like. If that song will become successful in terms of how many people will like it or even buy it, is something I don’t really think of too much, but of course I’m very happy when they do!

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because they like it, I hope! I’ve talked to a few kids lately who said they would never buy any music and I can understand their point of view in a way. However I’m sure every artist knows how expensive it is to record and produce an album. So if you’re a music lover you should support the music you love.

5. Who do you love?

I have the feeling, the word “Love” is being used slightly different in German compared to American language. You don’t hear it as often here. So, of course I do love a few people around me but that probably doesn’t answer your question. Of the more well-known people I love Elliott Smith for not having written one bad song in his tragically short life, Alfred Hitchcock for his great sense of using shadows and lights in his black and white movies and Paul Auster for having written some of my favorite books.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

I hope to bring joy into other people’s lives, like some artists do bring joy into mine. It’s a great feeling to see people dance or hug or just enjoy themselves while you are playing!

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Sometimes there are only 10-12 people in the audience. Then I have a chance to meet everyone. But fortunately there’s usually a bigger crowd. In general it seems like our music reaches a wide range of people, 14 years old as well as 60 years old, which I consider a great luck!

8. What is your favorite album?

It used to be “Abbey Road” but for the last few years it’s been “XO” by Elliott Smith I would say.

9. What is your favorite song?

That’s hard to say but if I had to listen to only one song for the rest of my life I probably would pick “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

10. How did you get here?

It’s been a long journey which started by learning how to play the guitar at the age of 12 and trying to find out all the chords to almost every Beatles song, then it continued by studying jazz guitar in Berlin and writing my own music which eventually led to the collaboration with lyricist Charlie Mason and awoke the interest of the headmasters of the Words On Music label, Eric and Marc Ostermeier. I must say I enjoyed the journey very much so far and I hope it will be continued for a long time!

Almost Charlie’s new album, The Plural of Yes is out now!

JELLYSTONE PARK

Jellystone_Park_POP

JELLYSTONE PARK Tales of Talcum (Self released)

Before The Karl Maka, Jonathan Fong was in a band called Jellystone Park. And before that, it was formerly known as “Tyranno-Vision”. In 1997, Jonathan formed a band with his secondary school friends, Fabian Lim and Peter Tan, and was joined later that year by Jon’s skateboarding friends, Aloysius Lim and Previn Naidu.

They started out by jamming on Saturdays and Sundays, and before the summer of 2000, a demo was recorded at TNT Music Productions. The demo was kept aside, until it was re-surfaced in 2009.

I came across Road Song when I asked Charan from Unpopular Radio if he had any songs from The Karl Maka to play. He didn’t, but said he was playing Road Song by Jellystone Park. I managed to get my hands on the link for Jellystone Park’s demo, Tales of Talcum.

The songs have elements that everyone can relate to at some point in time while their lyrics reflect the energy and hopefulness that comes with being youthful. Their songs are beautifully crafted about things we went through as teenagers a reflection in retrospective about growing up, relationships and life. My favourite tracks are Open Fields and Forever, For A While, its lyrics invoking nostalgia and taking me back to memories long abandoned.

What I like about Jellystone Park is how honest their lyrics is and how everyone can relate to it. Those of you who follow The Karl Maka would realise how different Jellystone Park is from The Karl Maka. Their musical styles are worlds apart, but The Karl Maka still has similar song-writing elements of Jellystone Park. Tales of Talcum is the perfect album to kick back to on a lazy Sunday if you’re not out catching gigs.

(Rebecca Lincoln)

For those of you who are interested in Jellystone Park, you can download the demo here.

GOSSIP

gossip-music-for-men-album-art

GOSSIP Music For Men (Columbia)

In case you’re still unaware of Beth Ditto, here’s the 411:  She’s a rotund American songstress, champion of LGBT  rights, and positive body image advocate, who, somewhere between these social undertakings, happens to be the vocalist of indie-rock darlings Gossip — a band you really need to know by now.

I know what you must be thinking. “Oh lord, not another one of those bands.”

Let me assure you, Gossip’s music is far from self-indulgent, in fact it is exceedingly compelling, particularly on their latest offering… and I don’t mean that in a lookit-the-queer-band sense of the word.

Music For Men is essentially a distilled version of Gossip’s body of work so far. That is to say, an amalgamation of punk attitude, soul-sista pipes, and jaunty indie-rock stylings, accompanied by a frenzied cornucopia of drums laid down by seemingly tireless hands. Not bad, considering that four albums on, Gossip (albeit with the loss of earlier-incarnation prefix “The”) have managed to retain a distinct sound that most other trios spend a large part of their career trying to achieve. All without losing much in the way of momentum, I might add.

The most aurally apparent observation one might draw from initial spins of the record is how polished it sounds, even though the vocals melody and rhythms register as oddly disjointed. There is a method to Gossip’s madness, one that lends itself to instantaneous identification upon consideration of the entire piece of music. It’s as if the band have reached a common consensus to steamroller through their convictions as a unified front, with their constituent idiosyncrasies providing the ruffled, worn-in character so often associated with some of the finest music ever made.

Gratifying, if I do say so myself. It’s refreshing to see a band that can truly stick to its guns. Highly recommended listening.

(Sherwin Tay)

Check out Gossip’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – TRASHED ON FICTION

trashedonfiction_1

1. Why play music?

Performing, writing, and learning about music is all we’ve  wanted to do since we were young kids listening to our parents records.  Our education backgrounds are in music,  and it’s all we know how to do skillfully. On top of that, our friends are all involved with music in one fashion or another. So basically, peer pressure.

2. Who are your influences?

As a band we really bond over bands like Television, The Replacements, Wilco, CCR, The Band,  Pavement, Neil Young, Crazy Horse and Elvis Costello & The Attractions; Bands that like to play with the building blocks of rock and roll and invert them into songs with a lot of heart. Sound collages, the contrast of rural and urban America,  elements of Phillip Glass’ simplistic repetion of themes, and the lo-fi  unabashed sincerity of Guided By Voices and Daniel Johnston also affect our songwriting.

3. What is success?

Ideally, success is to be a touring, recording,  constantly creative  rock band and pay our rent and quit our day jobs.

4. Why should people buy your music?

Well hopefully they hear some tunes, feel a connection, and think it’s a fair trade.

5. Who do you love?

Jon Stewart. Who else is there?

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

I think most people can think of a local band, or a record they unearthed from some closet, and when those first notes come out they feel part of some great secret, or club, and feel that song is them to a tee. We’d like to be that band.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Lots of people of all ages and drinking habits.

8. What is your favorite album?

On our recent tour Battles album Mirrored was played a lot, so maybe that’s our current favorite.

9. What is your favorite song?

Home On The Range.

10. How did you get here?

Eric, Dave, and I have been good friends since high school, and were a trio for a year or so. Brent Miller works at a local music store and offered to do some recording and eventually joined the band in 2007.

Trashed On Fiction’s new album, Words Trails Maps is out now.

ME & MY GUITAR GOES OUTDOOR

4779_95050504314_624094314_2058170_6243383_n

And so, a week of gigs ended for me with two satisfying solo acoustic sets at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. I got Nick Tan and Narisa Chan, two young singer-songwriters to open each set for me with two songs and it was rather affecting, I must say, to watch them delivering their own originals to the crowd.

4779_95050489314_624094314_2058167_6515744_n4779_95050509314_624094314_2058171_3755356_n

Narisa seemed rather nervy but I think she handled herself well. Just needs more experience. Nick more seasoned now and his new song together with You (one of my favorites) pleased the audience. More to come from these two I predict.

4779_95050529314_624094314_2058175_6497596_n

I felt the first set was a little hard going for me – although the crowd was always appreciative – for some reason, I felt the songs weren’t coming across, especially the Singapore-referencing ones, which surprised me. Or maybe it was my own imagination. In any case, set list – Jealous Guy, I Love Singapore, High Cost of Living, The Offender, Pasir Ris Sunrise, Lament, Here, Beautiful, My One & Only.

I started with the electric piano for my second set. Was a little apprehensive about this, I don’t usually do this live but I thought that Texas and My Life went down well. And that pleased me no end. So from that point in time to the end, the set went very well and I could see many mobile phones raised recording my performance. Always a good sign! Also very much enjoyed the debut of (It’s Not A) Fact after all these years. Yes, it’s time to record some of these babies! Set list – Hey Jude, Texas, My Life, Beyond the Ashes, (Its Not a) Fact, Easy, Heaven, My One & Only, Gum.

Thank again to Chloe (and all at Esplanade) and of course to Nick and Narisa.

Pictures courtesy of Soh Poh Soo.

… still there’s more …

KEVIN MATHEWS/THE GROOVY PEOPLE

It has been a fruitful week for Kevin Mathews/The Groovy People as we played two gigs in five days!

On Sunday, 21 June, we play an half-hour set at St James Powerhouse in aid of Mercy Relief’s humanitarian effots in Pakistan. Even not feeling 100% well, the (rock) therapy of playing with the Groovy People more than carried me through. It was a kick watching Mike Cho, Ark Analogy and my pals, King Kong Jane doing their bit for a good cause, as well.

Set-list

Jealous Guy, I Love Singapore, Orchard Road, Easy, Heaven, My One & Only, Gum

Thanks to weetz for the youtube videos!

On Thursday, 25th June, our mini-tour concluded with an appearance at Milestone at Empress Place for the 1990s segment. Appearing as Watchmen we took the stage after legendary 90s bands, Concave Scream & Force Vomit. It was a fun time although for some reason I totally screwed up the lyrics of Damaged and fluffed chords here and there. Whatever…

Set list – Hot Burrito #1, I Love Singapore, Orchard Road, The High Cost Of Living, Climate of Fear, Easy, Jealous Guy, Damaged, Heaven, My One & Only, Gum.

Picture 7

Videos of the Milestones gig can be seen on Facebook. Thanks to Narisa for uploading!

And today, Saturday, 27th June I’ll be playing two solo sets at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre from 7.30pm to 8.15pm and from 8.45pm to 9.30pm. See ya there!

… still there’s more …

THE FIRE FIGHT

Henri-1

Two years in the making, the Fire Fight’s maiden full-length album – Henri – is well worth the wait, believe me. My review copy dropped just this morning (Thanks, Esmond/WMUM!) and already I am feeling very good about Henri.

An ambitious concept album about a bear named Henri as he encounters the city of Elemenopee, Henri contains NEW recordings of songs previously featured on the Green Single viz. Fires At Night, Candela, Hours & When Spring Comes Home as well as popular live favorites like Traing Son (yes!) and Beware! Monster.

Not only that but the story of Henri is also told through art pieces specially created by the insanely talented Jon Chan (yes, the Plainsunset dude), see picture above, which truly adds to the overall enjoyment of this musical work.

The band will launch this exciting new album at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 31st July 2009. Tickets are now available at SISTIC. Don’t miss it!

More updates to come on Fire Fight at Power of Pop with review and interviews to come.

…still there’s more…

ALMOST CHARLIE

cover

ALMOST CHARLIE The Plural of Yes (Words On Music)

There are a few things that a casual listener should take note of, concerning German band, Almost Charlie.

First, singer-composer Dirk Homuth possesses a nasal vocal style that is borrowed heavily from the late great John Lennon. Uncannily so, in fact.

Second, lyricist Charlie Mason is not part of the band and in fact has never even met Homuth before! These song collaborations have been carried out over the internet. What will they think of next?

Music-wise, Almost Charlie (oh, I get it now!) parlays a chamber-folk-pop sensibility that is pleasant enough without being too deeply affecting. I suppose you could make comparisons between the musical approach here and the Beatles’ own folk-pop excursions on Rubber Soul & Revolver. Or you could easily discern references pointing to another late great, Mr Elliot Smith.

Overall, the vibe one gets from The Plural of Yes is a likable evocation of Beatles circa 1965, and if you’re into that era then this album is for you. Simply put, good music for those melancholy rainy Sunday afternoons.

Check out the band’s Myspace page.

A clip of a lively rendition of Leaving is Easy follows…

TRASHED ON FICTION

trashedonfiction_cd

TRASHED ON FICTION Words Trails Maps (ESCHE)

Trashed on Fiction sound old. That’s not meant as a derogatory description of any sorts, more a matter of fact sort of thing. On their new record, Words Trails Maps, the four-piece Brooklyn outfit play roots rock in the grand tradition of Creedance Clearwater Revival, Them and Crazy Horse. This means lots of massive sounding guitar riffs, crashing drums that sound magnificently gleeful, and a studio ethic that takes the lo-fi aesthetic of the indie scene and turns it into a manifesto of intent to bring the listener back to the days when rock and roll was fresh and vibrant instead of the tricked-out cliché it is today. The aforementioned studio ethic is a double-edged sword of sorts: at certain moments it sounds energetic, live and infectiously immediate, while at others it sounds home-made and beat-up, as if it was recorded in a music store, a kitchen, the back of a van, and two bathrooms. Oh hey, waddya know, it was!

Moving on past the sound, though, the songs are surprisingly good. Without much studio trickery to lift up the songs, Trashed on Fiction have only the palette of rock and roll’s three primary colors (drums, bass and guitar) to paint from, and they don’t disappoint. The record opens with the aptly-named January, with a tom boom and guitar explosion leading into a rollicking riff that threatens to blow open the puny mp3 file holding it together. Matador, too, is reasonably good, with a punchy middle section that is enjoyable headbangable. All high octane stuff that still manages to infuse typical indie melody into the mix. So far, so good.  By the third track, though, the band’s lo-fi home made sound is getting rather grating, which is a pity because Safety Net is a lovely number with washes of rootsy melody exemplified in the song’s nostalgic refrain, “darling, did I love you?”

Fourth track, Killing Grounds, is a relatively quiet and down-tempo country-drenched number that gets particularly mesmerizing towards the end, where the crashing cymbals and lyrical guitars intertwine to shush a throbbing bass to sleep. Seventh track Beggar sees stabs of fuzzed out guitar punctuate the air menacingly before revving up into a melodic march highlighted by humming keyboards that slowly builds up to a beautiful climax. Beatification takes an unexpected detour into bossa nova, almost sounding like a looser and rootsier version of Radiohead before firing into more familiar territory with Unfit/Unzip, a number that brings to mind early Kings of Leon. The album closes with the noise-stretching, experimental and epic sounding number One A Side, a whirlwind of distortion and howling winds that quiets down after four minutes to reveal acoustic guitars and shuffled drums at the eye of the storm.

Gutsy and vibrant, Words Trails Maps is a record that will demand your attention almost as much as it rewards it. It’s a record that captures both the heat of the sex as well as the post-coital embrace afterwards, a record that is as lived-in as it sounds. Invest a few hours into repeated listenings; you won’t be disappointed.

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Trashed on Fiction’s Myspace page.

THE DEVIL MAKES THREE

The Devil Makes Three

DEVIL MAKES THREE Do Wrong Right (Milan)

When you live in a tiny tropical island in the midst of the Malay Archipelago, the stretched out parched valleys of the old westerns seem awfully far away.  Put on Do Wrong Right, though, the latest release from Santa Cruz three-man outfit The Devil Makes Three, and one is guaranteed to be instantly transported to the dusty cracked deserts of old-time America, where men who speak in gruff whiskey splinters break with their tough-guy image and invite you to join in their raucous cowpunk country romps.

The band, consisting of Pete Bernhard on guitar and vocals, Cooper McBean on guitar and banjo, and Lucia Turino on stand-up bass, is an anomaly and anachronism in today’s age of Autotuned radio, but what a delightful anachronism they are. The youth of today, born and bred on a mixture of grunge, punk rock, indie and R&B music might find themselves baffled at first listen, but closer inspection will reveal that The Devil Makes Three is just as thoroughly punk rock as anything on radio today. Simply substitute furious distorted guitars for pluck and strum acoustics, crashing drums for a stand-up bass and half-shouted singing for a warm southern drawl, and hey presto! A hillbilly punk wielding a banjo with a wicked glint in his eye and mayhem on his mind.

The record opens with All Hail, an energetic chugging rhythmic number topped off with fiddle and banjo flourishes that nonetheless manages to name-drop contemporary terms in a odd juxtaposition that works brilliantly, and sets the tone for the rest of the record. The title track is a gleeful exhortation to screw up gloriously and a tribute to the devil-may-care attitude of the old times, as is Gracefully Facedown, a drinking song updated for modern times. For Good Again is an utterly charming number that narrates the tale of a band struggling to overcome their own inertia, with laugh out loud lines like, “We drank and we threw up, sometimes we practiced and played, our drummer couldn’t figure out whether he was straight or he was gay.”

The record hits a small road bump on Johnson Family, a track that, with its European influences, sounds oddly out of place amidst all the Americana. Thankfully that road bump doesn’t last beyond one track. Help Yourself channels the good sense and sensibility of the common folk and snippets of biblical narrative into the simple reminder that “the Lord helps those who helps themselves”. The Devil Makes Three continues to reflect the sentiment of the people into Working Class Blues, a song that, with its apocalyptic streaks of howling harmonica, updates the protest song from the Great Depression into the 21st century’s own Great Recession. The somberness continues in shades until the album closer, Car Wreck, a mournful, pensive track that ends the album with a stirring reminder of the times we live in.

One will need some time to slip into and out of the charming oddball record that is Do Wrong Right, but the band should be applauded for having made old time country music relevant in this technological day and digital age. Impish, infectious, and sorrowful by turns, The Devil Makes Three reminds us that heart and soul is timeless and that good music speaks past genres and decades.

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Devil Makes Three’s Myspace page.

CHRIS MCKAY & THE CRITICAL DARLINGS

cmtcd

CHRIS MCKAY & THE CRITICAL DARLINGS C’mon Accept Your Joy (Side B Music)

McKay is probably better known as a photographer than a rock musician but you can’t keep a good artist down. C’mon Accept Your Joy is actually a re-issue of the Critical Darlings’ debut album and is a revealing introduction to the band’s interpretation of 70s powerpop and 80s new wave. Thus, astute listeners will find references to Big Star, the Raspberries, the Knack, Cheap Trick, the Cars and the Smithereens sprinkled across this competent album. Personally, the songs that caught by ear are the Doug Fieger-channelling Sometimes I’m Sam, the sweetly balladic “Down”, the blistering raucous Until the Road Ends and of course, the irresistible opener Towel Cape Song. Recommended for all members of the pop underground who did not pick up on this fine album the first time around.

Check out the band’s Myspace page. A video of Towel Cape Song is embedded below.

THE GROOVY PEOPLE

So far, Kevin Mathews/the Groovy People have barely done two gigs a year. Really. So how does one figure two gigs in FIVE days? Cool, huh?

First up, on Sunday, 21st June, we will playing a charity gig at St James Powerhouse, e-flyer below.

image

Then, on Thursday, 25th June night, we’ll be playing in front of Timbre @ The Arts House disguised as Watchmen. Poster below.

Picture 3

Hope to see ya there.

…still there’s more…

DEEP PURPLE DVD

hh-h-sleeve

DEEP PURPLE History, Hits & Highlights ’68-’76 (Eagle Vision)

The finest hard rock/heavy metal band of all time. No contest. In my humble opinion. Yeah. more than Led Zeppellin and Black Sabbath. Well, I’m a little biased as after the Beatles, Deep Purple would be the main inspiration of the first band I played in. I think we may have even called ourselves, Blue Lightning…

This DVD focuses on the golden age of Deep Purple as the band moved through four distinct line-ups, famously known as Mark I, II, III and of course, IV. With rare TV clips – both mimed and live – from 1968 to 1976, HH&H is a classic rock fan’s wet dream as iconic songs such as Hush, Black Night, Speed King, Child In Time, Highway Star, Smoke on the Water, Burn et al are featured.

But what really seals the deal for me are the various insightful interviews with the Deep Purple members, which provides an intriguing backdrop to the departures and additions throgh this period. In particular,the  interviews with Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord provide much grist for the mill.

Be warned though, the sound and picture quality are much less than you’d expect in the digital age but really it is the historic, archival nature of these videos that should be appreciated at face value.

Essential for all students of rock history. And for those about to boogie…

JENIFEREVER

l_22637abdb8ed4e38a0f24983dcb61a64

JENIFEREVER Spring Tides (Monotreme)

Precious and fey. This Swedish band evokes early 90s shoegaze without the multiple guitar pedals. The quartet’s fragile, atmospheric music is probably best described as chamber emo.

The pulse on Spring Tides is brought to shore at very low ebb, barely audible and only slightly dynamic on the odd tracks. The arrangements and instrumentation are all rather precise, designed to create a subtle mood, for rainy train rides in the cool Nordic countryside, most likely (not something I’ve experienced myself, it must be said).

The downside is that it can all get rather miserable and precious (that word, again) and might need to catch one in a wistful frame of mind in order to fully appreciate. Not only that but the whole approach tends to sacrifice the melodic quotient and the lack of any change of pace can induce boredom (if ever so slightly, but still a risk).

Focus on the stellar guitar effects and Jeniferever’s Spring Tides will be the perfect soundtrack for those melancholy moments that pop up now and then.

Check out Jeniferever’s Myspace page.

ROCK THE SUB 2009

ROCK THE SUB, Saturday 6th June 2009. Timbre @ Substation / Guiness Theatre

Having a mindset that gigs always start fashionably late, I walked into the Substation at 7pm to find The Fire Fight sound-checking. I’ve always enjoyed going for The Fire Fight gigs, and Saturday was no exception. They played songs from their 2007 EP, as well as new songs from their upcoming full length album. The audience responded positively, singing along to favourites like Dreamer and The Train Song.

josh_fir

There were some technical difficulties, but that didn’t stop the boys from playing an outstanding set. The Fire Fight boys still pressed on and did whatever they could, despite the difficulties. I was impressed by Iain, who still played with the same fervency he’s always had, despite recently sustaining a knee injury. He did a excellent job, which was commendable, although he was limping after the set.

allura_fir

The last time I caught Allura, I was blown away by how consistent they sounded. I was a bit surprised to find that this time around, Allura didn’t have the same prominent trait that had set them apart from other local bands.  However, I did enjoy their set, especially one of their old songs (Closure), which was done in a different way.

A Vacant Affair played a dynamic set. They played a mix of songs from the 2007 EP and their full-length album, which was released late last year. I wasn’t too pleased with the sound, but Matt’s energy was contagious, and within moments, there were people moshing near the stage. There were so many people in the Guiness Theatre, and people continued to stream in throughout the set. A Vacant Affair has certainly come a long way, having opened for numerous bands like As I Lay Dying and Story of the Year for last year’s Taste of Chaos tour, amongst others.

4678_94721856598_560076598_2408456_4966992_n

Urbandub brought the night to an end with its catchy and expressive lyrics. I’d heard them on Myspace early last year, and I liked their music. I missed them the previous time they were in Singapore, so it was a treat to finally catch them. By that time, Timbre was packed with people, even while they sound checked (to rapturous applause). They played a variety of songs, especially ones from their second album, which I really liked. When they ended the set, there were unanimous shouts for an encore, which Urbandub happily obliged.

4678_94721761598_560076598_2408439_4194508_n

Some of the other outstanding acts included Nothing to Declare, Caracal, The Great Spy Experiment and For this Cycle. Credit must be given to the wonderful people who selected the acts. It made the gig one of the more notable ones in the past few months.

4678_94721831598_560076598_2408452_2020299_n

The thing that surprises me is how divergent yet congruent home grown and regional bands are. Experiences, culture and beliefs are all part of the musical process which helps to shape a band’s music. Often, we want similar things in life, which enables us to create bonds with other like-minded individuals. In perspective, Urbandub and The Great Spy Experiment might be from different regions in Asia, but each still has the ability to draw from their own experiences in order to reach out to their audiences.

There’s so many facets of our scene and I admit that a lot of times, I come to gigs with preconceptions about certain bands. How many of us can honestly be willing to give a band a chance to share with us what they feel without being so judgemental based on what we’ve heard or perceived? Have we reached a point where we’re only willing to stay for bands we like instead of discovering other bands we might not have heard of?

I’m a strong believer that we must always keep pushing ourselves further in order to improve ourselves. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the people who believe in our scene and are willing to have gigs like Rock The Sub to showcase local and regional talent.

Everyone left Timbre with smiles on their faces, proving once more that Rock The Sub was an immense success. Many thanks to Timbre Music and The Substation for putting together a stellar show.

(Rebecca Lincoln)

I must admit that I was thoroughly blown away by Urbandub. Their brand of melodic emo hardcore went down well with the crowd and they were entertaining from start to finish. The strange thing was that the technical sound problems that had plague S-ROCK bands throughout the gig seemed to magically disppear during Urbandub’s set, which sounded really good.

So what it is, a more professional attitude and approach? I just can’t put my finger on it. All I can add to Rebecca’s review is that we definitely need to up our game if S-ROCK bands are to be taken seriously in the region, never mind at home. Overall, Rock the Sub was a success but after three years, it may need some tweaking and reinvention. In fact the entire S-ROCK scene really needs a jumpstart to get things moving on to the next level. What that means, exactly though, is still in the air.

…still there’s more…

(Pix by Thomas Tan and Firdaus)

AIMEE MANN – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

aimeemann_mike_12282977_600preview

The good folks at Greenhorn Productions have pulled out another veritable winner from the hat with Aimee Mann. After pleasing audiences with Death Cab For Cutie, Stars, Ani DiFranco and Rachael Yamagata, the sophisticated pop-rock of Aimee Mann awaits Singaporeans live music enthusiasts at 7.30pm on Saturday, 29 August 2009 at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

Tickets at $118, $98 and $68 (excluding SISTIC fees). Fans of Greenhorn Productions facebook page will receive a password for early bird booking/discounts. Details to be announced at www.sistic.com soon.

Ling Kai will be the opening act.

…still there’s more…

PoP ESSENTIALS

whosnext

Pete Townshend had himself a little dilemma – how to follow the world’s first rock opera, the highly feted Tommy?

Tommy had turned The Who into one of the world’s most popular bands and Townshend was not willing to sit on past achievements. Out of that ambition came Lifehouse. What Lifehouse was supposed to be no one (not even Townshend, I’d wager) was exactly certain. Like Tommy it was a rock opera except that it was intended to be an interactive experience of some sort involving an album and a film, or something like that.

Like Brian Wilson’s Smile, the weight of expectation proved too much for Townshend and Lifehouse was shelved. However, unlike the Beach Boys, who had to settle for the vastly inferior Smiley Smile, what rose from the ashes of Lifehouse was an album that has proven to be one of the most enduring (and endearing) classic rock albums of all time.

On the cover of Who’s Next, the band appears to have pissed on the construct and artifice that was Lifehouse but in reality, from the jaws of near-disaster, the band pulled out a masterpiece. Made up of only nine songs, Who’s Next entrenched The Who’s reputation as the ultimate anthemic rock band as the album’s bookend tracks establish.

Both Baba O’Riley and Won’t Be Fooled Again open with a synthesized loop of notes before Townshend’s trademark power chords shear away at any arty pretence to reveal a beating rock heart. Not much to say about these iconic tracks – they have transcended the genre itself and listening to them will cause a stirring in the spirit to raise clenched fists into the sky.

But Who’s Next is more, of course. Bargain moves from tranquility to explosion and back, Love Ain’t For Keeping is a country-folk blues gem, My Wife is John Entwistle’s turn in the spotlight (with its brassy horns the obvious highlight), The Song is Over and Getting In Tune are entwined with concepts of the ultimate song/chord, being expressed in a slow rock approach that would be beaten to death in subsequent decades by inferior bands. Going Mobile is a breezy, folk-rock ditty that belies its sci-fi conceits whilst Behind Blue Eyes is a heavy examination of the nature of the villain (who may just be Townshend himself), with one of the finest melodies ever written by Townshend.

The sound on Who’s Next is muscular and punchy with each member of the band more than pulling their own weight – Daltrey comes into his own with his vocal delivery while the wildest rhythm section of Entwistle and Keith Moon continue to defy the basic laws of time and space – to support the artistic genius of Townshend.

There’s no doubt that Who Next’s was the apex of the Who’s recorded output and with Quadrophenia on, it was a slow but steady decline. Decades later, music observers still debate over what might have been (if Lifehouse had not been shelved). For me these hypothetical exercises are just that, when we have the timeless music of Who’s Next to savour.

DIORAMA

0101

DIORAMA From the E-Motion Picture Soundtrack (Self released)

Nothing quite like musical ambition. Diorama has conceived this mini-album as a conceptual piece of sorts. A story told from the perspective of a songwriter through music, thus the title. With the “E” inserted to suggest emotions as well as the electronica that peppers the songs here.

Diorama manages a good mix of rockers and ballads which suit the stories told and feelings shared with good production values and overall solid performances throughout. With influences ranging from the obligatory u2 references to the modern age emo powerpop postering, not to mention a deft use of prog-rock (or symphonic metal?) touches, this debut mini-album is an intriguing listen.

With two Malay language “rarities”, the sweet Sanubariku and slow rock-folk Anti-Romantis, to complete the package, From the E-Motion Picture Soundtrack is a release worth checking out, for fans of the S-ROCK scene and beyond.

Check out Diorama’s Myspace page.

COVE RED

4525_206277010413_742910413_7142814_2454442_n

The launch of Cove Red’s EP was held at Earshot cafe at the Arts House over 2 weeks. I made it the second week, and I was glad I did. The atmosphere was inviting, and by the time I arrived, there were quite a lot of people sitting around on the couches.

I took a seat near the merch table, and found myself drawn into the set. Rachael’s vocals were more clear and defined than when I last heard her at the NOISE Edition of Weekend Trip.

Each song had a quirky introduction, done either by her or Su Yin, and I felt connected to the duo as an audience member. For the first set, she played a few songs from the EP, and other songs that inspired her during her musical journey.

Throughout the set, I felt inspired and was caught up in the energy Rachael and Su Yin put into the set. It was enjoyable, knowing that they were doing something that they were passionate about and going out to share their music with other people.

The lyrics of the songs Rachael wrote were beautifully crafted, with the music carefully planned to complement the lyrics. Rachael drew from her own experiences, and penned earnest, honest lyrics that people could relate to. Her lyrics gave an insight into who she was, and what she believed in.

This enticed the listener to discover the different facets of their music, and I was fascinated to know more about her and what inspired her lyrics.

During the short break between sets, I had a chance to chat with Rachael and asked her what inspired her. Her answers were so simple, yet profound. I couldn’t help but take time to reflect on what inspired me and gave me strength to do the things I do.

I really enjoyed the launch of Cove Red’s EP. It makes me happy that there are musicians within our scene who are willing to chase their dreams and share what they believe in with other people.

(Rebecca Lincoln)

Cove Red’s Awaken the Dreamer is out now. More info here.

PoP ESSENTIALS

500px-the_white_albumsvg

PoP Essentials. Yes, a new series where I will try to explain why I love the music that I do and what Power of Pop is about. A cliff notes to understanding the sometimes incomprehensible gibberish that I try to pass off as music reviews. And of course, it begins with The Beatles…

Growing up, my favorites Beatles album was the so-called White album. For me, this double LP encapsulated everything I loved about the Beatles – the melodicism, the cutting-edge experimentalism, the eclectic styles, the sense of humor and the moments of odd weirdness.

In recent times, critics have complained that the vaunted Beatles quality control on White album was absent as the Fab Four ran amok in the studio, citing examples like The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, Don’t Pass Me By, Why Don’t We Do It On The Road and Rocky Raccoon. Or that the White album should have been released as a single instead of a double LP.

Personally, I think the White album is perfect as it is. Like most Beatles albums, it is easily listened from beginning to the end but what is extra special is that there is more to go around. Even George Harrison gets four songs (all winners) – the dynamic While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with Clapton on guitar solo, no less), the tongue-in-cheek(y) Piggies, and the quirky love tones of Long, Long, Long & the ode to candy that is Savoy Truffle.

John Lennon – who would be somewhat overshadowed by Paul McCartney in the latter years – is in fine fettle here. Providing singularly idiosyncratic music – with topics ranging from insomnia (I’m So Tired), Beatle in-jokes (Glass Onion), his mother (Julia), blues parody (Yer Blues), the Maharishi (Sexy Sadie), silly lullaby (Good Night) and the political times (Revolution No. 1). Instant classics each one. And with the arty-farty promptings of Yoko, managed to include the experimental sound collage – Revolution No. 9 – on side 2 of disc two.

For Paul McCartney, the de facto leader of the group after Brian Epstein’s demise, the White album showcased the qualities that would put him in good stead for the next ten years and beyond with Wings and as a solo artist. Songs like Back in the USSR, Birthday and Helter Skelter highlighted Paul, the rock ‘n’ roller whilst songs like Martha My Dear, I Will and Blackbird proved that Paul would always be the one with the pleasing melodies.

As is apparent from the above, by this time, the Beatles were a group in name only and the songs were treated almost as solo projects. Ironically, the White album stands up as the ultimate peak of Beatles music-making both critically and commercially. Within two years, Paul McCartney would file for dissolution of the Beatles.

SINGAPORE 60S

100-greatest

VARIOUS ARTISTS 100 Greatest Singapore 60s: The Definitive Collection (Universal)

In the introduction to this lavish 5CD set, the writer declares (and laments?) – “This five-cd box set of Philips Sixties depicts a time in Singapore’s pop music history when the universal fever for pop also reverberated here and the breadth of styles and music played here reflects that diversity. Perhaps a feat never to be repeated.”

Ironically, of course, the Singapore music scene is undergoing a mini-revival at the moment, with many local bands playing regularly both home and abroad and a multitude of albums & Eps seeing release. Of course, none of these bands are household names in the same way their 60s counterparts were. But still, its a good time for this collection to see light of day to remind bands and fans alike of the days that used to be.

The music is mainly culled from recordings made in the mid-60s, at a time when the Philips label was making inroads in establishing itself as a regional music label. With bands like Naomi & the Boys, The Crescendos, the Cyclones and the Thunderbirds delivering local interpretations of the melodic rock ‘n’ roll pop sound popularized by the Beatles, Cliff Richard & the Shadows, Beach Boys and the like, Philips made a vital contribution to the vibrant local music of the time.

The first 3 CDs feature the complete Eps of the aforementioned bands as well as Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings, Sue, Bobby Lambert and the Dukes, Bryan Neale with the Checkmates. Immensely listenable, it is no wonder that these bands were popular in their heyday with enthusiastic fans snapping up releases and attending gigs, with the high quality on display.

4th CDs brings us on a romantic journey with love songs from The Boys, Heather, Tony Chong, Janice Wee ans so on. Whilst the final CD shows the Singapore bands moving on with the times as fuzztone guitars signal the arrival of psych rock, folk pop and garage onto our shores. Bands like the Dukes, the Dee Tees, Cells Unlimited et al start to reveal greater diversity in styles to mirror the going ons in the USA and the UK.

Sadly, of course, the powers-that-be basically declared war on rock music in the 70s and that was the end of the Singapore music scene, with the recovery scene only occuring two decades later. But that’s another story.

One caveat – the tracks here have been recorded off the vinyl records and not magnetic tape – which speaks volumes of the treatment of Singapore music in the years that followed this golden age. And so, the sound quality is pretty poor considering modern CD standards. But one has to keep in mind the historic importance of these songs and what they will continue to represent to the current local music scene. Personally, despite the challenges facing the S-ROCK musician in 2009, I believe that we can still emulate our 60s forefathers and maybe even surpass them…

In the meantime, head on down to your nearest music store and get this box set now.