PET SOUNDS FROM BIG PINK: CHEATING SONS RECLAIM SIXTIES’ ROCK N ROLL LEGACY

CheatingSons

Cheating Sons!

Years in the making but definitely worth the wait. 10 tracks of such instrumental sophistication and erudite witticism that it is barely imaginable that the former cultural desert of Singapore is able to produce an album that absorbs the wondrous legacy of 60s rock and pop so well.

With the songwriting template pioneered by the likes of Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Band the band have also adopted the production values of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson to deliver a unique aural experience that will please rock scholars and casual music fans alike. An additional distinctive element is the band’s ability to incorporate East Asian sounds and melodies into the mix to create a East meets West amalgam that is surprising and pleasing.

Believe me it’s difficult to point out any particular highlights here as every track is an entity to itself but I will say that songs like the ghostly Beatlesque “Mercy of Cain and Abel”, the atmospheric folky “Patriach”, the country bluesy “Blood the Prize” and the Orbison-Teresa Teng channeling “Honeymoon” certainly deserve special mention.

In an amazing year for Singapore rock so far, this eponymous album is a definite standout and a statement of intent that hopefully will bring forth more exciting music from this wonderful band in the years to come.

CDs and digital albums will be available on cheatingsons.bandcamp.com and CDs also at Curated Records and Roxy Records & Trading.

LISTENING BOOTH

LISTENINGBOOTH

Songs! They’re practically giving them away nowadays. So, get them while you can!

SAM PAGE – “Release Me”

DOT DASH – “Shopworn Excuse”

FAIRCHILD – “Dancer”

KYOTO PROTOCOL

KYOTO PROTOCOL Pussycat single (Self-released)

I caught this Malaysian band at last year’s Baybeats Festival and to be honest, was not that impressed. There was nothing sufficiently unique about them amongst the scores of card-carrying “indie-alternative” rock bands that play at the Baybeats Festival every year.

However, I am glad to say that based on this brand new single, I have revised my opinion about Kyoto Protocol somewhat. The band (Fuad Alhabshi – Vocal/Guitar Gael Oliveres – Keyboards/Vocals Shakeil Bashir – Bass/Vocals Hairi Haneefa – Lead Guitar) have delivered a song that is an intriguing mix of Tom Jones-channeling vocals, 80s post-punk guitars and Dylanesque put-down lyricism (I like the line – “Don’t need your shit, I can swallow mine” especially)

Pussycat has been formally released through the following channels:

  • http://monsoon.my/
  • http://www.popfolio.net/monsoonrecords
  • Both are for online download at US$1.05 a pop. Recommended.

    Official site

    DIRTY BEACHES

    DIRTY BEACHES Badlands (Zoo Music)

    What a stage name this is. Dirty Beaches is Alex Zhang Hungtai, born in Taiwan and raised in Toronto, Honolulu, Montreal and Vancouver. His music style mingles minimalism with noise rock, popularly fitting into today’s indie/alternative scene, yet his voice cracks like a lost soul in this modern age of digitalism. On various occasions he lets out his indie Elvis persona and groove, as on Horses and Sweet 17, but the real gems come in subsequent tracks: he channels his best in A Hundred Highways, grooving like an established rock and roll legend; sounds like a timeless romantic on True Blue and a faithful believer on Lord Knows Best. That much said, all for a relative newcomer.

    Catch Dirty Beaches live between January and March 2011 as he tours together with Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls.

    Myspace

    [CJ]

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    ALEX LEVINE

    Originally published at ReviewYou.com

    ALEX LEVINE Falling Back Again (Self-released)

    The cover of Alex Levine’s new album will remind Jayhawks fans of the seminal alt-country outfit’s third album – Hollywood Town Hall. Granted, Levine is posing in front of a church building rather than a town hall but the structures are uncannily similar. Not only that but the music on Falling Back Again will cement that particular comparison and reference point firmly in the minds of all right-thinking alt-rock enthusiasts. Basically, the continued alchemical quality of combining country and rock music. Simply put, Levine’s Falling Back Again is one of the more impressive alt-rock albums released in 2010.

    Continue reading “ALEX LEVINE”

    WEEZER

    WEEZER Hurley (Epitaph)

    On the 1st single released from Weezer’s new album Hurley, Rivers Cuomo sings, “Memories make me want to go back there”. Considering that Weezer fans (and ex-fans) constantly harp on the band’s past glories, this is perhaps the ultimate irony. Fact is, with Hurley, Weezer embarks on a new chapter in their careers – for the first time, the band have released an album on an indie label, in this case Epitaph (well, okay, a major indie, but an indie nonetheless).

    Continue reading “WEEZER”

    BAYBEATS 2010

    And so Baybeats 2010 is upon us. I happened to be at the Esplanade last night for an unrelated rehearsal and caught a couple of bands sound checking, notably Lunarin who looked (and sounded) in fine fettle. Not much else to say except that if you’re a rock music lover then this festival is not to be missed!

    Lineup is over at the Baybeats website. It’s gonna be a cracker! See you all soon!

    CAMPFIRES IN WINTER

    CAMPFIRES IN WINTER Cardboard Ships (Self released)

    This debut EP from Scotland’s Campfires in Winter is heavy on the post-rock alternative aesthetic with the band’s focus on various musical elements, instruments and mixing near-quiet ambience with sudden intensely loud rock melodies.

    The end result can be slightly confusing for the unwary listener – at times it seems like they are coming at us like a sonic tidal wave, with no clear musical direction. The near-quiet ambience towards the end of each song puzzles me in particular, as it seems to head off nowhere to an ending. Design or accident, you can decide.

    Cardboard Ships can easily be the soundtrack to some – but most probably not all – of the alternative, post-rock scenesters out there. Fans of Mogwai, Broken Social Scene and the Twilight Sad will no doubt enjoy Cardboard Ships.

    To promote Cardboard Ships, Campfires in Winter’s upcoming tour venues include “Steven and Jenny’s Flat”, “Sean’s Flat” and “Lloyd’s Back Garden”, as part of their Intimate Tour. Yes, they love to have a more personal touch and intimate performing session with their fans, so much so that they would play to the comforts of their own fans, even if it is at their very own homes. Intimate indeed.

    Free Download of Cardboard Ships available at http://campfiresinwinter.com/

    Myspace

    (CJ)

    U2

    U2 The Unforgettable Fire Deluxe Edition (Interscope)

    1984. The year Orwell warned us all about, proved to be an excellent year for rock music.

    Amazing albums like the debut Smiths album, Psychedelic Furs’ Mirror Moves, Born in the USA from the Boss, Madness’ Keep Moving, REM’s Reckoning, Ultravox’s Lament, The Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl, Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen, Bruce Cockburn’s Stealing Fire and of course, the Unforgettable Fire.

    A year before, U2 broke big time with third album, War, which hit #1 in the UK and #12 in the USA. War was a strident anthemic rock album, easily identifiable for its huge drum sound, a signature motif of producer Steve Lillywhite. However, with the next album, U2 elected to change course somewhat and enlisted the aid of avant garde producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The result – the experimentally accessible Unforgettable Fire.

    I remember how shocked I was when I first put needle to the vinyl and out came A Sort of Homecoming with its unusual drum patterns and soundscapes, as Bono sung lustily on top. Magic! A memorable moment. The rest of The Unforgettable Fire sustains this edge as U2, Eno and Lanois pushed the envelope and more or less set the stage for the world conquest to come in the shape and form of The Joshua Tree, three years later.

    25 years later, the remastering of this classic stands up pretty well, together with a 2nd disc of b-sides, live tracks and remixes and a 3rd disc (DVD) of videos and documentaries. Add to that a glossy book and prints and what you have is a Deluxe Edition that lives up to the name.

    I would say that this is highly recommended but I can’t imagine anyone who is remotely interested in modern rock music who isn’t into U2 and wouldn’t already be interested in picking at least the single-disc version of the album. I guess this Deluxe Edition is for longtime fans like yours truly but its an acquisition that is certainly worth the expense.

    Official Site

    FLORENCE + THE MACHINE

    FLORENCE + THE MACHINE Lungs (Universal)

    Electro-alt-R&B. Something like that. Kinda like Yazoo, y’know the duo of Alf Moyet and Vince Clarke in the 80s, if anyone of you can remember that far back. Dynamic, muscular and forthright – Florence Welch and friends present “in-your-face” pop music that challenges perceptions both lyrically and musically.

    Howl is a prime example as the song threatens to overwhelm with over the top strings and screaming vocals as Florence sings – “If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me/I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free/The saints can’t help me now, the ropes have been unbound/I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallowed ground”.

    The violent imagery is carried on into Kiss with a Fist, a rockabilly number where Florence recalls Chrissie (Pretenders) Hynde with lines like “A kick in the teeth is good for some/A kiss with a fist is better than none”. Good stuff.

    The rest of Lungs is just as intriguing as Florence + the Machine brings diverse musical and lyrical ideas to the table with a firm foundation in 80s post-punk, which is perfectly fine in my book. An emerging artist to watch…

    Florence + the Machine is performing live in Singapore (supported by the xx) on Sunday, 7th February 2009 at the Esplanade Theatre at 8pm. Tickets available at SISTIC.

    Official Site

    MySpace

    CLOSEAPART

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    CLOSEAPART Hologram EP (Self-released)

    I hate to say this about a S-ROCK band but whilst the five songs on this EP seems to possess a promising blend of cool vibes and structures, I’m afraid the songs themselves don’t quite pass muster. I just get the nagging feeling that the whole exercise is an just that – an exercise.

    Sure, tracks like the power balladic The Ghost in You and the mid-tempo dynamic Medicine have the 90s Britpop veneer that propelled the likes of Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene to superstardom. Not to mention that the opening A Whisper in the Wire and the throbbing Red Eye, delivers enough faux U2-Radiohead-Coldplay impact to please most casual modern rock listeners.

    In other words, it’s pretty well put together and should appeal to fans of the abovementioned bands. Still, I cannot escape the annoying feeling that there should be more. I don’t deny the hard work and craft that went into these songs but where’s the spark? I mean, its a little a bit too much by the numbers and dare I say, too derivative for my tastes.

    That all said, there’s just about enough going on in Hologram EP to justify investigation especially if you want that modern alternative rock vibe ala The Killers and the like.

    MySpace

    MY LOST YOUTH

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    MY LOST YOUTH Take the Stage EP (Self-released)

    Take The Stage is the debut EP of My Lost Youth, a young band from the UK. (Not the most imaginative of band names, but I’m just nitpicking here.)

    The EP opens energetically with The Aftermath- wide expanses of guitars, and strong, emotive vocals. On record it sounds somewhat disjointed because of the timing changes, from verse to chorus, but I imagine it might be a good live song (and a quick search on YouTube proves it!) The music could be described as stylish pop-rock that is technically complex with interesting beats, dynamics and variation.

    Dave Muir’s vocals are emotive but slightly pitchy and muffled, sounding like a unique and very distinguishable mix of Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara and Anberlin’s Stephen Christian, with a significantly deeper timbre. The guitar work is immersive and very well done, giving the EP a much more polished and refined sound than it would otherwise have. The rhythm section is unfortunately compromised by the production quality- the drums are overly-compressed, sounding stiff and unnatural.

    There is certainly room for improvement- the band is still a little wet around the ears in the recording studio, which is to be expected of any new, young band. Their live show is passionate and shows potential. I would love to hear a full length LP with the guidance of an experienced producer, and I’d be willing to wager that they could make it pretty far if they make the right decisions.

    (On an unrelated note, My Lost Youth actually quite remind me strongly of Singaporean band Trella, which is amusing because I’m certain neither band has ever heard of each other.)

    (Visa)

    FREE DOWNLOAD

    MySpace

    OUR LADY PEACE

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    OUR LADY PEACE Burn Burn (Coalition Entertainment)

    Quickly, the truth: when was the last time Canadian alt-rock outfit, Our Lady Peace, made you pick up a CD? Unless you’re an avid follower (and discounting the two compilation albums in the meantime), the answer is likely to be four years ago in 2005, when they released their last studio album, Healthy In Paranoid Times. It’s pretty much an open secret that the recording process of that album wasn’t all too smooth. Under pressure from their label, Sony Music,  for radio-friendly singles, the band came close to breaking up several times during that process. No surprise, then, that OLP left the label soon afterwards.

    Which makes Burn Burn, their latest release, the band’s first record ever since leaving Sony Music as well as their first self-produced record. So has the change of scenery done the band any good? That depends on who you ask. Early on in the recording process lead singer and producer Raine Maida hinted at a back to basics sort of record, which of course got their fans all excited for the sort of vivid rawness OLP hasn’t displayed since 2002’s Gravity. It’s a tad more complicated than that though.

    The record opens on the ridiculously named, but rather good All You Did Was Save My Life. Having stopped trying to be Bono like he did on the last record, Maida’s earnestness comes through here to gel perfectly with the punchy guitar riffs and anthemic bounce of the rhythm section. It’s a rather promising lead-in that will remind you of Snow Patrol’s edgier work. After that, however, it all goes disappointingly downhill. Dreamland is a mid-tempo effort that sounds closer to Gravity than it does to Naveed, and features some enjoyable guitar textures in the chorus, but is held back by lazy melodies that never manage to break out of the obvious and into the memorable.

    The record’s most obvious problem starts manifesting about three tracks in. For a record that was produced by the lead singer, it’s baffling then that the vocal track is almost lost in the mix of the raw, vintage-OLP sounding Monkey Brains. Maida only truly comes to the forefront during the acoustic break, which really should have been the entire track anyway. Perhaps a proper producer might have catalysed the song towards that direction? Never mind that. The End Is Where We Begin is markedly U2ish with its swelling organ intro and delayed guitar riffs, but suffers from a conspicuous lack of hooks. The record picks up on the drums-driven Refuge, which, oddly enough, reminds me of Electrico’s Love In New Wave. Unfortunately instead of building up to a big finish, the record dissipates into MOR blandness, with Signs of Life in particular sounding like a stripped down cleaner version of—beware, here’s the foul N-Word coming– Nickelback.

    It’s a real pity that Burn Burn never really lives up to its promise, because this could have been OLP’s chance for a big comeback. After all, there’s never been a better time for their sprawling brand of arena rock than now. Unfortunately, the record’s production suffers from the lack of a proper producer.  Even more importantly, without an outsider to bounce ideas off and drive the band forward, Burn Burn just sounds like a lazily indulgent effort.  It tries to combine both the aggressive bang of vintage OLP with the radio-friendliness of Gravity, but instead, falls flat into a puddle of alt-rock clichés instead. Underwhelming.

    (Samuel C Wee)

    Official site

    Myspace

    SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

    Starting a new feature where I highlight some music that made an impression on my life. Music that soundtracked my existence, you might say.

    In the 90s, alternative rock got a shot in the arm from the success of Nirvana, whose melodic crunch was labelled (crassly) as grunge. However, it would probably be more accurate to say that Nirvana were closer to being a powerpop band than a metal band with influences that included, amongst others, the Beatles and Neil Young.

    Post-grunge, the alternative rock scene threw up many great like-minded great bands who were deft at combining catchy tunes with muscular guitar rock. Even as I revisit this heady music for a new project band, I am discovering how special that rock epoch truly was and I hope that this new feature will inspire you to check out these fine bands and their essential albums.

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    TEENAGE FANCLUB Grand Prix (Creation, 1995)

    No doubt in my mind that Grand Prix was the creative peak of the Fannies where their tremendous potential finally became reality. Melodies, harmonies, chiming & crunching guitars were the order of the day. Almost perfect. Highlights – Don’t Look Back (the opening guitar lines still gives me chills), Neil Jung (geddit? Possibly the one of the best Shakey tributes out there), Tears (thrilling blue-eyed soul) and Discolite (Gerard Love really has a way with tunes).

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    DINOSAUR JR Where You Been (Sire, 1993)

    Talk about tributes to Neil Young! With the hype surrounding “grunge” in the early 90s, how J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr remained fairly below the radar is beyond me. Where You Been was Dinosaur Jr’s 5th album and probably among their most commerically successful albums. Highlights – Start Choppin’ (when the guitar solo begins to soar halfway through – heaven!), What Else Is New? (probably the closest Dinosaur Jr gets to a pure pop song, with the fretwork kicking ass!), Not the Same (an epic ballad no less, where the spectre of Neil Young looms largest) and Out There (the anthemic opener).

    Well, that’s just the first instalment.

    …still there’s more…