VARIOUS ARTISTS Ballyhoo!!! (Music For Good/Aging Youth)
Just in case you’re wondering, the Ballyhoo is the poor fish being gobbled up by the pelican (?) on the cover so I hope that’s not a metaphor about the S-ROCK scene. Hmm.
For the 2nd release in the For Good series, MFG and AY have decided to focus on young bands, which is a bit of a risk no doubt but there are some choice picks here.
Sidd And His Self-Esteem – Occupation
Sidd and his band play pub-rock. Seriously. There’s an obvious Elvis Costello/REM vibe to the proceedings with the soaring chorus a delight (well, the backing vox more like). The verses tend to drag a little though. Not too shabby.
Allura – Closure
One of my favourite S-ROCK songs, no contest! Everything works – from HQ’s intricate drum work, Matt’s throbbing bass, the intersecting guitars of Aaron and Mark John and of course, Inch’s powerful evocation of a relationship gone sour. The strong hooks, memorable melody, inherent rhythms – they’re all there. Should be played on the radio non-stop… Love it!
Quasimodo – At The Cosmo
What is it about this band that is so infuriating? There are many things they get right. Chief of which is the choice of genre – 80s post-punk. BUT the vocals are flat and therefore, the tune gets short shrift. The song itself isn’t half-bad, if only they get the vocals right. Now is that too difficult? Arrgggh!
You and Whose Army? – Ordinary is King
From the 1st time I heard this track on an IPOD, I fell in love with it. It’s such a timeless tune that music lovers of all ages will be able to get into it, without problem. The classic rock fan will get off on the Pink Floydisms (i.e. James’ slide guitar) whilst the modern rock enthusiast will adore the Radioheadisms (i.e. Bonk’s singing). Not only that but the 5/4 time signature is unique in itself and Adam (bass) and Beni (drums) pull it off with aplomb! An S-ROCK instant classic…YaWA is King!
King Kong Jane – If It Wasn’t For You
KKJ is, in my opinion, severely underrated in the S-ROCK scene. At its core, the band is able to meld commercial and artistic concerns in their songwriting and recording process. Which means slick production values, good singing and performances. And above all that, killer hooks and an indelible groove. If It Wasn’t For You possesses all these elements. I will say it again – a band to watch out for.
S.P.O.N.G.E. – Astray
If you’re a fan of Creed, Alterbridge and their ilk (post-post-grunge-lite, if you must), then you will enjoy this crusty ballad. Me? I’m afraid I find this lacklustre and run-of-the-mill to be honest. And really, work on those vocals, cos if it keeps going out of tune like that, no one’s gonna listen.
Seabedsound – Let’s Dance
I don’t know if the band are trying to be ironic by playing disco-funk but if they’re serious, then well it’s either an ambitious two-fingers to the naysayers or chronic wrong decision making. The song itself is a curiosity, rather authentic 80s jazz-funk and a singer that does a passable Simon LeBon impression. But once the novelty factor wears off, it’s just another unremarkable, poorly sung track (and there are already too many on this compilation).
Midnight Marvel – Spit It Out!
Ha ha ha! More like it! You think MM has heard of the Go-Gos? I dare say they must have. Old school punk sure has its benefits – don’t think just pogo! It’s a little rough around the edges but it’s careening in the rights direction, that’s for sure. Hope to hear more from MM in the days to come.
Bismuth – The Sting
Ah… just check out my review of the band’s EP elsewhere. Suffice to say that in the context of this compilation, it’s an excellent entry.
Radical Context – Reminiscene
Bacharach chords? Though this was an indie rock CD? I love eclecticism. So thumbs up for Radical Context. Execution is very po-faced though, I mean its pretty straight-up jazz pop. Not much of a tune, sad to report and more attention the singing in the studio would have brought more reward. The sax solo is cool, I might add.
Jess Chen – Don’t Go Away
You know, I keep harping on vocal performance and someone is going to call me on it – “This isn’t Singapore Idol!” Maybe not but it’s not about being pitch-perfect but about emotional resonance e.g. Bob Dylan. Jess has the obvious potential and good reference points – Oasis, Bon Jovi – but again, the vocal delivery lets him down somewhat. Sorry.
Peepshow – Why
There is something unwieldy in the songwriting here. There is raw promise here – an understanding of a hook and the general ambience of a cool pop song. But the execution is off. I must say that with better arrangement and production, Why could be a much better song.
In the final analysis, the album is a disappointment and instead of providing evidence of the talent of our young bands, it gives ammunition to the detractors who say Singapore bands “cannot sing and cannot play”. Is it lack of know-how and lack of guidance? Or just lack of quality control?
I take my hat off to Patrick Chng (MFG) and Willy Tan (AY) for their care and dedication to the Singapore music scene and these comments are not meant to be a criticism of their work but I would not let any of my non-local scene friends listen to a majority of these tracks for fear of its negative impact. I wanted to be positive about this release but I love our scene too much to be less than honest.
… still there’s more …
So Singapore music fans, what do you think?