SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

I really only started buying albums with a passion in the very late 70s. Back in the day of course, we didn’t have internet so we had to rely very much on magazines to discover new music. Remember that in the 70s and 80s, the Singapore government was very anti-pop culture and we were constantly bombarded with the message that Western culture was decadent. And so, you had to be rather dedicated to the cause if you wanted to get your hands on great new music.

Around that time, I discovered post-punk with the movie Urgh! A Music War – a film that changed my life forever. One of the artists that really got my attention was Gary Numan (see the clip below). He performed Down in the Park live and it was mind blowing. Not only was the music something I’d never really heard before – genuinely – but he sang sitting down in a motorized chair – awesome!

Numan made synth-pop a mainstream phenomenon in the UK as his singles and albums became best-sellers and deeply influenced much of British music for the better part of the 80s. Well, it certainly made me passionate about synth-pop and led to many acquisitions of albums by fellow practitioners like OMD, Human League, Depeche Mode, Yazoo and the like.

Gary Numan was very much at the forefront of the movement and personified this futurist attitude. However, Numan was often maligned by the British rock press and his popularity waned in the late 80s, a period where synth-pop – once so edgy was hijacked by the mainstream and turned into soul-less muzak. Isn’t always the case?

So it often amuses me when I hear synth-pop fascimiles coming out from modern US rock scene in 2010 –  it all began in the 80s, kids. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

CARI CLARA

CARI CLARA It’s Our Hearts They’re After LP/You Better Run EP (Deep Elm)

As a music writer, being offered hundreds of new albums/EPs for review, I sometimes rely on press releases of publicists/labels to determine which request I want to accept. My guiding principle being that I try my best to review every review request I accept. So with Cari Clara, I was somewhat intrigued by the band’s purported list of influences viz. Radiohead, Muse, Pink Floyd, Elliot Smith, Big Star, Grant Lee Phillips, Beta Band.

Cool, huh?

And so here I am pretty much astounded by this album and EP by Cari Clara i.e. Eric Diedrichs (vocals, guitar), Mark Diedrichs (keyboards, synth), Jason Arbenz (guitar, backing vocals), Greg Tudor (synth, glockenspiel, percussion, backing vocals) and Josh Hagen (drums). Why so? Not only do those cited inspirations make sense in the context of their music, they write amazing songs as well.

It’s Our Hearts They’re After is chock full of midtempo, slow burning torch songs that embrace the arcane and arty agendas of post-punk and psych-rock bands throughout the ages. It’s one of those rare albums that you’d want to swallow whole, a complete entity that must be savoured from start to end. Gorgeous.

You Better Run actually ups the ante somewhat, going all epic and gothic with the inclusion of strings and Edge-like guitar histrionics on the title track, groveling in swampy voodoo blues on Neither Weapon and A Hand To Shape) and channeling dark ghostly balladry on the Great Departure.

If you wanna know what genuine indie rock sounds like in 2010, listen to Cari Clara and you won’t go far wrong. Scintillating mope rock, angels would dance to…Simply magnificent.

Myspace

THE LUCY SHOW

THE LUCY SHOW …undone (Words On Music)

Rock history is littered with the debris of promising bands who never quite fulfilled their full potential. You could say that The Lucy Show certainly qualifies. During their brief existence (from 1983 to 1988) the band released two critically well-received post-punk/new wave albums that never got the label marketing support required to sustain the commercial momentum to survive the cut-throat music industry.

US indie label Words On Music has done its part in re-issuing the two Lucy Show LPs in an attempt to expose the band to the modern day rock audiences. …undone is the band’s debut (1985) and is reminiscent of the Cure and the Comsat Angels in its use of sonic atmospherics and affected vocals.

Tracks like the REM-channeling Remain, the other-worldly Ephemeral (This Is No Heaven), the fragile Wipe Out, the dynamic Undone and the psychedelic Dream Days are excellent representations of the kind of post-punk that continues to be deeply influential to this day on bands like the White Lies, the Editors and the xx.

A relic from a different age.

Official site

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

SPEAK LIKE A CHILD

Sometime in 1982, Paul Weller announced that the Jam was breaking up. This was a major shock to the UK music scene and especially the fans of the popular trio. I remember a lead interview in NME where Weller spoke about how he had become disenchanted with guitar rock. The last Jam single Beat Surrender was a soul-inflected number which hinted at Weller’s new direction.

And it came in 1983, with the release of Speak Like A Child. I recall hearing it first on the BBC Top 20 radio show being introduced as the single from Weller’s new band “Style Castle”. Well, that’s what I heard anyways… I rushed down to the import store at Centrepoint and asked for the new “Style Castle” single. This of course mystified the store owner. He queried if I meant Star Castle (70s prog band) instead? Then it came to him, “The Style Council”?

So I picked up the spanking new Style Council 45 called Speak Like A Child b/w Party Chambers and spent many hours spinning the disc. It was soul-influenced  and notable for the total absence of a guitar! Instead, Weller’s new partner – Mick Talbot (formerly of Mod revival band Merton Parkas) – was prominent in providing many of the keyboard sounds. There is little doubt in my mind that the early TSC singles had a profound influence on my own songwriting and singing (more of that later) and Speak Like A Child was the one that started it all. Music video below.

TRACY SHEDD

TRACY SHEDD EP88 (Eskimo Kiss)

On her previous release, Cigarettes & Smoke Machines, singer-songwriter Tracy Shedd combined classic country-folk flavoured rock with a pinch of British post-punk edge. The new EP88, continues in this vein somewhat, with Shedd focusing on the piano as her main instrument and husband/guitarist James Tritten evoking the spectre of Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and New Order.

Which makes for powerful, memorable mood-rock music, which sits comfortably in the seemingly polar genre settings. With melodies derived from a more traditional source, backed by atmospheric strings (guitar and violin), songs like the haunting City At Night, the driving Tokyo Rose and the pleasing West Inn Love will stand up to repeated plays.

Highly recommended.

Free download of City At Night. Video below

Official Site

KUAN

KUAN On/Standby EPs (Kuan)

Named after a Buddhist term that symbolizes wordless contemplation, Kuan, is a Dayton, Ohio based quartet comprising bassist Bryan Wright, drummer Brett Nagafuchi and guitarists Charles Heck and Paul Larkowski who deliver more than meditative mantras in their latest offering On/Standby, a two-disc ep of aural textures and hues seamlessly pulping math-rock, avant-garde jazz and post-punk into a raucously beautiful mess.

On showcases the prowess of the band’s current line up in almost forty minutes of feverish tight-arsed instrumentation in six tracks while Standby is pretty much a bonus disc consisting of material recorded in 2007 as a trio before Wright’s foray into the set-up.

Imagine yourself stuck in a decaying city enveloped by broken glass and burned out buildings but amidst all that squalor, a bewilderingly joyous soundtrack is heard and you can’t help but dance your way into destruction. That’s quite possibly the best way to describe Kuan’s sound to neophytes, despite concerns of how everything might fall apart at any minute, the wicked intuition from the technically astute musicians creates aural bacchanalia for anyone who listens to them.

Distortion and melodies, the forte of this band – is obvious right from the effervescent opening track G from On, the joyously angular banter between guitarists Heck and Larkowski is ably supported by Nagafuchi’s primal drumming and subtle assaults from bassist Wright. Antiquated Moog synthesizers so often the instrument of choice for Detroit techno heads and musically inclined stand-up comedians, steals the limelight in J as Wright and Larkowski channel George Harrison’s obsession with psychedelic sitar licks, into one hella of a bopping tune. My favourite track is K, the album’s finale, a resonant interplanetary rock epic that glows with a gluttonous surfeit of clever aural manipulation and destined to even make twinkling purple Martians gyrate. Standby pales by comparison to the riveting On (could have been a mistake playing it after the latter).  But the disc still has elements of their trademark sounds, and clearly encapsulates the evolution of a promising trio to a mean quartet.

Kuan is essential listening for connoisseurs who dig the intricate sonic landscapes painted by bands such as Battles, Explosions in the Sky, Slint, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 65daysofstatic, Mogwai, Aphex Twin and Tortoise.

(PJ Benjamin)

Official Site

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PoP CLASSICS

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK Architecture & Morality (Dindisc, 1981)

My first encounter with OMD (like many other post-punk bands) was  the documentary Urgh! A Music War and the wonderful Enola Gay. I believe I purchased a US printed LP that compiled tracks from the 1st two OMD albums (purely for Enola Gay, of course) and then not long after that, Architecture & Morality, which was released at the tail end of 1981.

It is probably one of my favourite albums of the synth-pop era and to this day is an LP I can easily (and comfortably) listen to from start to finish – a rarity.

The album opens with mechanical noises, jangly guitars and jarring mellotrons before Andy McCluskey weighs in with his trademark awkward vocals. Like most early OMD, it is a unique combination of the bitter and the sweet. The quaint She’s Leaving follows, as the band demonstrates that it is as deft at McCartneyesque melodicism as any 70s powerpop outfit. Then Souvenir comes in to deliver the perfect sugar-rush with a truly memorable synth riff and Paul Humpreys’ fey vocals.

The beauty of OMD was that it was able to write experimental instrumental sound collages as well as hit singles. This appealed greatly to a music lover like me that appreciated the Beatles and Pink Floyd, ELO and Genesis. Sealand and the title track were great examples of this ability. In between, these tracks were two singles concerning Joan of Arc – both were top 5 hits – and together with Souvenir (which claimed the #3 spot) ensured that Architecture & Morality would be OMD’s best selling album (to the tune of 3 million copies sold).

For me, OMD was a fine example of a band that were recording for the sheer love of the music. The image of the band was communciated through stylish album covers (by Peter Saville) and artful yet infectious songs, all the while maintaining an experimental edge to their idiosyncratic songs.

The album closes with the bouncing Georgia and the thoughtful The Beginning and the End.

OMD would never quite attain the peaks of this album, with each succeeding album marking the band’s inevitable commercial and critical decline. Still, for having produced Architecture & Morality, OMD deserve their place in the post-punk hall of fame.

A truly essential album.

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Ian McCulloch kept his shades on throughout Echo & the Bunnymen’s first (and last) gig in Singapore, whilst Will Sergeant and assorted session musicians translated the Bunnymen’s memorable back catalogue into tight psychedelic grooves and incandescent guitar patterns.

The largely expat thirty-something (and above) crowd greeted the opening couple of songs (Going Up, Show of Strength, Rescue) with enthusiasm, albeit seated. However, at Mac’s behest, the crowd stood with Stormy Weather (off 2005’s Siberia) onwards and there was a much better atmosphere inside the Esplanade Theatre.

Which was appropriate timing as the hits were rolled out – Seven Seas, Bedbugs and Ballyhoo, Bring On the Dancing Horses, Back of Love, Killing Moon and the Cutter – played at a frenetic pace and the prancing crowd lapped it up. Two encores later (which included a medley of Nothing Lasts Forever, Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down and Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour, that flummoxed the crowd), the gig was over.

In hindsight, you could quibble that this current incarnation of the Bunnymen did come across a little like a tribute but that is a little unfair. But of course, there’s precedent with The Who only recently playing the Superbowl, with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the only surviving members.

The songs were presented with power and verve, Mac’s voice was a little thin in places but the music stands up to the test of time. I would argue that the songs here had stronger constitution than that provided by the Florence + the Machine and the xx, the night before. The ultimate test being whether in 25 years, would anyone remember the latter bands…?

So to Mac and Will, thanks for the memories and the music!

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE/THE XX

It’s rather interesting (and a little sad, I guess) that two generations of British pop-rock musicians are performing back-to-back this early February as it succinctly illustrates how much Singapore has changed since the mid-80s. Last night, the latest new wave of British pop-rock viz. Florence + the Machine and the xx performed in the Esplanade Theatre in front of an adoring crowd of locals and expats. Most of the locals being teenagers and young adults, screaming at every nuance and move, the unconditional love was rather overwhelming. This was obvious from the reactions of the performers themselves, whom I’m sure was not quite sure what to expect from Singapore.

Whilst I personally found both groups to be very good at what they do – both bands adopt 80s post-punk styles in their own way – it was hard for this 80s survivor to shake off the obvious references points raised. The xx is, of course, heavily influenced by the likes of Joy Division, the early Cure, Young Marble Giants and Echo & the Bunnymen (more of that later). Florence Welch’s image and singing style immediately brings to mind the likes of 80s new wave divas e.g. Kate Bush, Toyah Wilcox, Siouxsie Sioux (the Banshees) and Debbie Harry (Blondie).

Mind you, none of this detracts from the enjoyment of the music, which is exciting and dynamic throughout. Although the xx does tend to do the Oasis i.e. just stand there and play. Florence – on the other hand – puts heart and soul into her performance, her soulful music revolving around your amazing voice and the risks she takes with it. Awesome! That said, there is an intriguing method in the xx’s sound, with electro beats and minimal guitar-bass interplay, I was impressed by the simplicity of the music and also how they incorporated some of my own favourite influences into catchy yet intelligent material.

Which brings me to the Echo & the Bunnymen gig – which I understand, is not receiving the unconditional love that Florence/the xx got. Perhaps, if this was 1985 instead of 2010, would anything have been different? Of course, there would never have been any Bunnymen gig in Singapore in 1985, believe me. So what has changed? Certainly, the internet and “relaxing” of official intolerance over rock music, not to mention, a shift in entertainment values in our young Singaporeans are critical factors. But of course, few people at a young age are that interested in rock history – so the ambivalence is understandable. Better late than never, I guess.

That said, the Echo & the Bunnymen gig is probably a once-in-a-lifetime performance and so, should not be missed at any cost! Especially if you’re a fan of the xx and/or Florence + the Machine (and I’m certain they would agree), you MUST go watch the Bunnymen tonight.

Kudos to Chugg Entertainment for putting up these great shows.

Pix courtesy of Weetz.

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN LIVE IN SINGAPORE

My introduction to Echo & the Bunnymen – and to many bands of the post-punk era – was via a rock movie called Urgh! A Music War. Remember, boys and girls, back in 1981 (a time before the internet), as the government frowned on rock music, no bands came to Singapore to perform, and music fans (like yours truly) had to depend on import record stores, music magazines (like NME, Sounds, Record Mirror), videotapes smuggled from overseas (of TOTP, The Tube etc) and the occasional rock movie to get our fix of the latest music.

So I recall that it was around Christmas time when I brought my wife (then-girfriend, of course!) to the Rex Theatre to watch this strangely-titled movie about the new music that was coming out of the UK and the USA. Basically, it was a life-changing experience as bands like the Police, XTC, OMD, Gary Numan, Jools Holland (who is coming to Singapore soon!) and Magazine lit up the screen and my mind was blown. Irretrievably!

There was also a clip of the Bunnymen peforming the Puppet (see above) and like the others, my head was turned. And so I picked up the latest Bunnymen album – Heaven Up Here – and the brief love affair began. Heaven Up Here is a dark psych-rock masterpiece and featured such classic tracks as Show of Strength, Over the Wall, All My Colours and A Promise. The album was hailed by NME as album of the year.

The Bunnymen’s star was rising in the UK and this was confirmed by the following release – Porcupine – which contained two hit singles viz. The Cutter and Back of Love. In 1984, Bunnymen released – in my opinion – their best album, Ocean Rain, which contained The Killing Moon (immortalized in Donnie Darko). After that, the Bunnymen lost their way somewhat with the poppier The Game, which saw the band make inroads into the US market. Singer Ian McCulloch left for a solo career, drummer Pete De Freitas was tragically killed in a road accident. Bizarrely, remaining band members (guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson) regrouped the Bunnymen with a new singer and a new album in 1990 (of which, the less said the better). The album flopped and the Bunnymen were no more by 1993.

At the tail-end of Britpop, with the likes of Oasis singing their praises, the original Bunnymen reunited (sans the sadly departed De Freitas) and released the well-received Evergreen, with the cover echoing (sorry!) their debut album, Crocodiles. Since then, the band has continued recording (four more albums) and whilst Pattinson has also left the band, McCulloch and Sergeant still carry the Bunnymen banner with dignity and verve.

Of course, the Bunnymen circa 2010 is totally different proposition from the band I first saw in 1981 but for music lovers and serious musicians, this is a gig that should not be missed.Especially to the younger set who are into the post-punk revival bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the xx, the Big Pink, Interpol, the Killers, the Editors and so on.

Once again, the gig is tonight at the Esplanade Theatre at 8pm. Get your tickets at SISTIC before its too late!

See you there.

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN

ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN The Fountain (Ocean Rain)

Some critics (including yours truly) believe that 1984’s Ocean Rain was the Bunnymen’s absolute peak in music-making. Well, some folks are saying that the Bunnymen’s latest album – The Fountain – is the Bunnymen’s finest recording since Ocean Rain. Hurm. I’m not so sure about that though. Whereas Ocean Rain was the high point of Bunnymen’s pioneering epic sound, The Fountain is a much more poppier affair.

Detractors have derided the recent Bunnymen albums as a pastiche of their own deifining post-punk epoch, going as far as to say that on these albums, the Bunnyment sound like a parody of themselves! Well, I guess that’s the risk you take when trying to equal such ground-breaking albums as Heaven Up Here, Porcupine and of course, Ocean Rain. But really, to be fair, can’t we just take these albums at face value without having to hold them up to Bunnymen’s 80s ghost?

I mean, if The Fountain had been released by a new British band, the music press – whilst noting the debt to the Bunnymen – would be falling over themselves proclaiming such band as the “next big thing”. So why the double standard?

Personally, I think The Fountain is as strong as its predecessor Siberia (2005) and in my humble opinion, most resembles the eponymous 1987 album, which is probably the Bunnymen’s hookiest effort to date. Tracks like the opening single Think I Need It Too, Do You Know Who I Am?, Life of A Thousand Crimsha and the title track will appeal greatly to the fans of the modern post-punk revival and their proponents e.g. The Verve, The Shins, Big Pink, Coldplay, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and so on.

Echo & the Bunnymen perform in Singapore at the Esplanade Theatre on Monday, 8th February 2010 at 8pm. Tickets available from SISTIC.

Official Site

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FYFE DANGERFIELD

FYFE DANGERFIELD Fly Yellow Moon (Self-released)

Dangerfield is, of course, the frontman of delightfully quirky BRIT award nominated indie rock band, Guillemots. On his self-released debut album, Dangerfield does not stray too much from Guillemots sonic agenda. Perhaps less wildly eclectic than his full-time band, Dangerfield’s material here is slightly more conservative and traditional when compared to his work with Guillemots.

The tracks on Fly Yellow Moon, mostly consist of piano-centric songs, informed by epic melodies with downbeat sentiments. Thus, songs like the wistful title track, the plaintive ballad Barricades, the nostalgic High on the Tide, the folky Livewire, the pastoral Firebird and the fragile Don’t Be Shy provide the perfect soundtrack for those melancholy late nights. In this regard, Dangerfield recalls the moody genius of Nick Drake.

Fortunately though, Dangerfield is clever enough to mix the melancholia with stabs of hysterical fun e.g. the violently bubbly When You Walk in the Room (which comes across like mad Mika), the post-punk revival piece Faster Than the Setting Sun, where Dangerfield uncannily channels Ian McCulloch (Echo & the Bunnymen), the ELO-ish soulful She Needs Me and the throbbing electronica of Any Direction.

A fine debut album by all accounts, a no-brainer for Guillemots fans, and recommended for lovers of Brit-pop (e.g. Lightning Seeds, World Party et el).

Official Site

Myspace

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

VAMPIRE WEEKEND Contra (XL)

Loved Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut CD – found it truly refreshing. Which is ironic when you consider that Vampire Weekend’s music is at its core a simple channeling of Paul Simon’s Graceland, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and the early edgy post-punk of XTC. But… it’s refreshing nonetheless.

Same applies to Contra (a thematic response, it seems to The Clash’s Sandinista), Vampire Weekend’s superb sophomore effort. Like so many of their peers, Vampire Weekend’s debt to post-punk/new wave cannot be over-stated. That does not change the fact that Contra is an irresistibly fun record, it comes across like an in-joke that only those in the know can truly appreciate.

The blending of African rhythms, classical music, edgy guitar and electronic pop elements along with cool melodic constructs make for a pleasurable listening experience, especially for fans of 80s pop music. Songs like the quirky Horchata, the bouncing White Sky, the jumping Holiday, the frenetic Cousins are impossibly catchy and will win over easily any true-blue pop lovers. And this is what “pop” is (and should be) all about!

Official Site

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FOR AGAINST

FOR AGAINST Never Been (Words On Music)

Don’t you just love bands that are ahead of the curve? Lincoln, Nebraska’s For Against were one of the few US bands who were deeply influenced by the British post-punk of the early 80s, and during the period from 1985 to 1997, operated as a one-band post-punk revival. And at a time, when the post-punk era was terribly unfashionable, as well!

Even when For Against re-surfaced in 2002 with Coalesced, the post-punk revival had barely taken its first tentative steps. Thus, the value of For Against in these musical times cannot be overstated, their place in the scheme of things has to be recognised. Last time out, with 2008’s Shade Side Sunny Side, For Against proved that they are still a major force in the alt-rock world.

Never Been is the latest release and the band seems intent to downplay or de-emphasize its post-punk associations to a certain degree. Whilst the guitar techniques and sounds continue to retain the atmospheric timbre of the big music of Echo and the Bunnymen/the Waterboys/Comsat Angels and the sombre approach of Joy Division, there are now additional colours in the form of keyboards and harmonic vocal arrangements in tracks like Of A Time and Per Se.

I hate to admit this but I prefer it when For Against does not screw with the formula and and focus on what they do best i.e. post-punk. Therefore, tracks like the resonating Sameness, spine tingling Black Willows and downbeat You Fade, evoke the power and dynamism of the post-punk genre with aplomb.

Official site

Myspace

THE XX

THE XX xx (Young Turks)

Being labeled by the British music press as the “Next Big Thing” can often be a poisoned chalice for young bands. The xx – a trio from SW London – have had that distinction, with an album that has been favourably recived by critics and fans alike. And like so many new British bands nowadays, the weight of the post-punk influence is heavy.

Opting for mid-tempo to dirge-like minimalist, almost atonal edgy pop that recalls New Order, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cure, amongst others, listening to xx has certainly left me feeling nostalgic. Highlights for me include, Intro, Crystalized and VCR, which open the album brilliantly.

Not quite as immediate as the bands they are trying to emulate but a definite slow-burn grower. I am intrigued to check out their live act. Of course, I can on 7th February when The xx opens for Florence + the Machine. Get your tickets from SISTIC.

Official Site

Myspace

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

ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Post-punk legends Echo and the Bunnymen finally make their way to our shores in 2010. Having seen 80s favorites Elvis Costello and Lloyd Cole in Singapore already this year, catching Mac & Will will be a perfect start to 2010.

Having been reduced to the core of singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant since 1999, the Bunnymen have continued to record and release new material, with 2005’s Siberia a standout. Now on tour to support latest record, The Fountain, the Bunnymen will be performing at the Esplanade Theatre on 8th February 2010.

PoP visitors can expect loads of covergae leading up to this momentous event. In a first quarter that is jam-packed with exciting gigs, the Bunnymen concert promises to be extra-special.

Tickets available now at SISTIC.

… and there’s more …

KEVIN MCADAMS

kevinmcadams

KEVIN MCADAMS It’s My Time To Lose My Mind (Self-released)

Drummers are a special breed eh? Especially when they also sing and write their own music. Notable examples – Ringo Starr, Phil Collins, Don Henley and Andy Sturmer. Well, Kevin McAdams played drums for indie rock outfit Elefant and his new solo album It’s Time To Lose My Mind is proof that there are more to drummers than the cliched jokes will let on.

With Elefant guitarist Mod Alien on board as producer, this enjoyable album is a fine blend of powerpop, new wave and post-punk influences and styles, with an emphasis on catchy melodies throughout. McAdams primarily instrument here is keyboards and without degenerating into fey Keane/Coldplay histrionics, McAdams utilizes different keyboard sonic approaches in a fashion recallin the likes of Todd Rundgren, Ivy, Paul McCartney, Grandaddy and the Cars.

There’s a freewheeling, devil-may-care, eclecticism in memorable tracks like Start Over Again, The Bannerman Nightmare, Hourglass, Small Town Livin’ and the like. Fans of modern-day D-I-Y pop masters like Jason Falkner, Jon Brion and Brendon Benson will thrill to Kevin McAdams.

Myspace

STELLASTARR*

Picture 11

STELLASTARR* Civilized (Bloated Wife)

Can I be brutally honest? I still haven’t quite made my peace with the still-kicking post punk revival scene. It seems shocking to me sometimes that young bands feel the need to plunder the best years of my music-listening experience to “create” new product for the teeming masses of today.

File Stellastarr* together with the likes of the Killers, Interpol, the Editors et al, in their blatant referencing of 80s post punk and in particular Joy Division. That said, on Civilized singer Shawn Christiansen, seens to have taken a different path from previous albums, less Ian Curtis and more Marc Bolan & David Bowie with a tinge of Mark (Devo) Mothersbaugh.

Not only that but there’s seems to be a slightly happier vibe on songs like Prom Zombie, Tokyo Sky and Move On.

If that’s your thing, well, don’t hesitate and get Civilized.

Myspace

YEAH YEAH YEAHS

its-blitz

YEAH YEAH YEAHS It’s Blitz! (Polydor/Universal)

New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs viz. Karen O (vocals), Brian Chase (Drums) & Nick Zinner (everything else), have been on a upward spiral ever since they self-released their debut self-titled EP in 2001 (which incidentally hit #1 on the UK Indie Chart). In the course of eight years they have released 2 more EPs (Machine and Is Is) and 2 albums (Fever To Tell, Show Your Bones) to critical acclaim and commercial success.

It isn’t difficult to understand why. Riding the early wave of the post-punk revival, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ undeniable hip and cool factor, irresistibly melodic synth dance pop and of course, hot front woman in Karen O is a potent recipe for sustained universal (no pun intended) acceptance. The serious rock enthusiast can obsess on the band’s uncanny knack of referencing all the right post-punk influences whilst the casual pop listener will be thrilled to the tunes and simply dance along. Critics have suggested that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs provide a comfortable middle ground between the Killers and MGMT and they’re not too far off the mark.

Karen O has remarked that It’s Blitz is a change in direction for the band, as it continues to grow and mature. Well, the dance pop is still well in evidence, as showcased in the opening two dynamic singles – Zero and Heads Will Roll, which I’m sure you’ve already heard on the radio and elsewhere. For crucial portions of It’s Blitz, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to their immense credit, expand their palette to include slower, deeper songs that allow the pace and atmosphere to dictate the sound. On these tracks e.g. Dull Life, Shame and Fortune and Runaway, the style is almost Gothic, with Karen O coming across like a very modern-day Siouxsie Sioux (of the Banshees).

That said, the finer moments of It’s Blitz, are encapsulated in sweet indie pop goodies like the hypnotic Soft Shock, the gorgeous Irish soulful Skeletons, the new wavy Dragon Queen, the shimmering Hysteric and the fragile nearly alt-country-folky Little Shadow. Included in this CD are four bonus tracks of the band in acoustic mode – Soft Shock, Skeletons, Hysteric and Little Shadow. Which is always the sign of a band confident of their songs to be able to stand up even without the bells and whistles of full instrumentation. But of course, in this case, the guitars are embellished by lush strings, and that never hurts. For once, the songs live up to the “bonus” tag.

If after 400-odd words, you don’t feel the urge to acquire this stellar album by all means necessary, then I have failed to do the Yeah Yeah Yeahs justice. Believe me, It’s Blitz contains some of the best new music I’ve heard this year.

Check out Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Myspace page.

Video of Yeah Yeah Yeahs performing Heads Will Roll and Zero below.