Netflix’s collaboration with Marvel featuring the grittier, street-wise superheroes of New York (of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) enters into Phase Two with Jessica Jones. Whilst Daredevil has a marquee-level brand recognition, Jessica Jones would only be familiar to diehard comic book fans, from the Marvel MAX series, Alias. Thus, it represented a bit of a risk for Netflix-Marvel to produce a Jessica Jones series over a more prominent character like say, The Punisher or even Luke Cage. But the gamble paid off and how!
The latest DC crossover event Convergence gave the company the excuse to reboot its characters yet again. For some reason, Marvel and DC are convinced that comic book readers constantly want something new in lieu of memorable stories.
The Silver Age Green Lantern (a.k.a. Hal Jordan) gets his latest makeover with the Renegade storyline: Hal gets a new look as he goes rogue from the Green Lantern Corps and along the way, Jordan steals a Green Lantern prototype gauntlet and power pack from the armoury.
It seldom gets as meta as it did in the 4-part Airboy series recently published by Image Comics, written by Jame Robinson and illustrated by Greg Hinkle.
Basically, Robinson and Hinkle are hired by Image Comics to reboot WWII hero Airboy for the millennial generation. Instead, the mini-series is about Robinson and Hinkle meeting Airboy (!) being transported into WWII and actually participating in an Airboy mission.
Well you know when it comes to big superhero comics crossover, it’s easy to be cynical & look at them as nothing more than cash-grabs i.e. a gimmick to lure completist fans to buy every comic ‘associated’ with the main event storyline.
Well, strictly speaking, the issues focusing on Batman, Superman and the Flash do not occur within the current continuity of the regular titles so, one might argue that these one-shots do not qualify as cynical cash-grabs but a genuine attempt to explore the implications of Darkseid’s death.
The late Arthur Lee and Love (the band Lee led & fronted) remains one of the most under-rated bands from the 60s/70s. Well, at least compared to their peers. Already well-documented is the fact that the likes of Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) were massive fans of this ground-breaking iconoclastic band. Certainly, the backward gazing bands of the 90s British indie scene owed a thing or two to Love.
One of the most freewheeling eclectic 60s bands, Love (which also included guitarist-songwriter Bryan Maclean, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, bassist Ken Forssi & drummer Michael Stuart) were never constrained by genres or styles and dabbled in folk, baroque pop, psychedelia, acid rock and even proto-punk (check out “7 and 7 Is” is below).
Not only that but the band can lay claim to producing one of the bona fide rock masterpieces of all time – the magnificent Love Changes.
However, due to drug problems and internal disagreements, the band’s commercial success dissipated in the late 60s, with Lee fronting a new set of musicians, but this incarnation of Love never garnered the widespread acceptance or acclaim of the original group.
Reel to Real was Love’s final official album and until now, has never been issued on CD! By the recording and release of this album, Love was essentially Lee with an assortment of session musicians but despite its marginalisation in rock history, deserves serious re-examination.
Not least for its daring coverage of a multitude of styles, despite its primary focus being on soul, R&B and blues-rock, one could imagine the young Prince, Lenny Kravitz or Terence Trent D’Arby listening to Reel to Real and copping one or two musical ideas.
Whilst modern pop fans would probably find themselves grooving to soulful gems like “Time is Like a River” and “Stop the Music”, alternative rockers might take a shine to off-beat numbers like “Singing Cowboy” and “You Said You Would”, which sound like Hendrix channeling Buck Owens! And that last song – “Everybody’s Gotta Live” – is the Lennonesque anthem Noel Gallagher wished he was smart enough to rip off!
The new reissue has rather illuminating outtakes which on occasion outshine the original tracks with their spontaneity and raw energy. There’s also a sloppy studio rehearsal of that classic Forever Changes outtake “Wonder People” for all your Love completists out there.
A hidden treasure re-discovered. Essential!
Based on the book by writer Andy Weir, The Martian is the story of astronaut Mark Watney’s survival on the planet Mars after he is left stranded. In that respect, one might say it’s basically Robinson Crusoe on Mars with better science and no Friday. It’s also similar to Gravity, where Sandra Bullock’s character is stranded in outer space and has to find her way back to Earth. Or even Tom Hanks’ Castaway? Or… what was the name of that movie when I was a child? Lost in the Desert?
As you can tell, the premise is nothing new and there are numerous stories about the lost or stranded protagonist who needs to survive and to find his or her way home. Therefore, there was a sense of trepidation before watching The Martian – mainly because of that familiar storyline. But to the credit of director Ridley Scott, scriptwriter Drew Goddard and the cast, The Martian is executed brilliantly and is ultimately a very emotionally resonant, thought-provoking and entertaining film. And also rather surprisingly, very funny as well.
Speaking of the cast, apart from Damon’s usual reliable star turn, special mention must be made of the performances of Jeff Daniels (as Teddy Sanders, head of NASA), Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Vincent Kapoor, a NASA mission director), Jessica Chastain (as Melissa Lewis, Ares III commander) and Sean Bean (as Mitch Henderson, a NASA mission director).
The presence of Bean inspired probably the most bizarrely comical segment when a secret project is dubbed “Elrond” with references of The Lord of the Rings being thrown about! Unbelievable! If you don’t quite get this then you need to understand that Bean played Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Most everything worked in The Martian, which is not often the case in recent movies helmed by Scott but it does seem that the veteran director has gotten his mojo back – which bodes well for the Prometheus sequel.
But well before that, make sure you do not miss The Martian – a feel good scifi movie that affirms the ‘never-say-die’ ethos of the human spirit.
There is a dream-like quality about the opening songs on Irish pop-rock evangelists Pugwash’s new album, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends). The first six tracks have a pleasing and enveloping mellifluence that functions as an effective panacea for the ills of the modern (pop) world. Mid-tempo numbers like “Kicking and Screaming” and “Lucky In Every Way” will bear the familiar hallmarks of the Pugwah oeuvre – a comfortable rhythm, note-perfect harmonies, sympathetic guitar patterns and memorable singalong tunes. “Feed His Heart With Coal” has a clever train motif running through the track which recalls the work of XTC whilst “Just So You Know” is a brilliant ballad laced with spy movie themes.
The rockabilly ditty “You Could Always Cry” is the one concession to a heightened tempo and “Hung Myself Out To Dry” possesses a feisty McCartney-esque music hall jaunt (with a chorus melody Macca himself would be proud to call his own!).
But when “Silly Love” slows down the pace once more, it feels… right. There is a sense of ease that is hypnotic and mesmerising.“All the Way From Love” will no doubt entrance Roy Orbison lovers with its wondrous channeling of the Big O and “We Are Everywhere” is a slow burning Beatlesque psychedelic pop ballad that delivers an appropriate ending.
Recorded at The Kink’s Konk studios, this new album is everything Pugwash fans would expect from their heroes and much more. With the band’s own heroes Ray Davies (The Kinks), Andy Partridge (XTC) and ELO’s Jeff Lynne guesting on a couple tracks — not to mention The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon on keyboards — there is a genuine feeling that all is right with the world.
It all makes sense – this is as close as you can get to pop perfection in 2015.
The Walking Dead is one of the most successful shows currently on television and with good reason. It is a smart, character-driven drama that has captivated audiences by constantly developing their characters and letting us become invested in their stories as they journey through the zombie apocalypse. It seems that AMC is hoping to make lightning strike twice by creating a companion series for the popular show entitled Fear the Walking Dead.
Instead of in the south, Fear the Walking Dead takes place in Los Angeles in the several-week period that Rick Grimes was in a coma and is unable to witness the slowly descending horror. We are able to watch how things fall apart in a major metropolitan area as it crumbles under the weight of the hordes of the undead.
I have always been passionate about having more female artists/musicians in our local scene. Certainly, one of the signs of a progressive music scene would be the number of talented and creative women operating within the same. Well, in very recent times, you basically cannot keep the women out of the local music scene even if you tried and the rise to prominence of Eugenia Yip (a.k.a. Ginny Bloop) is one significant milestone, for sure.
The enigmatic vocalist is making a name for herself fronting TWO critically acclaimed acts viz. The Steve McQueens and Riot !n Magenta, and whilst there is no denying the strong musicianship of the men behind her in both bands – there is also little doubt that Ginny is the star of the show whenever she steps up on stage. Fresh from a triumphant Japanese tour with The Steve McQueens, Ginny lit up the proceedings at the Ignite Music Festival 2015 with her idiosyncratic stylings. With her aviator shades and tie-dyed top, Ginny looked (and sounded) like a rock star – the consummate stage performer holding court. Considering how Singaporean musicians are generally awkward on stage, Ginny is a rarity and utterly mesmerising in performance – once you are hypnotised by the Ginny Bloop experience, it’s never enough. Seriously, folks.
Has been a while since I have seen The Good Life Project in action and the presence of three ladies in the septet (singer Pamela, bassist Stasha and violinist Kim) has always spiced things up. Not that the guys are slouches in the instrumental department with Sano, Naz, Intriguant (Lewis) and Ritz (subbing for Boey) more than able to pull their own weight. Considering the sheer amount of talent that resides in this group, I am still mystified at the fact that they remain somewhat obscure in the scheme of things in the local scene. Their pleasing blend of sophisticated jazz-funk-R&B-pop-rock is a recipe for mainstream success, with as much as potential for overseas acceptance as that currently received by The Steve McQueens. At Ignite last evening, they owned the stage, oozing class and dynamism from start to finish – they deserve so much more! Here’s hoping we will see and hear more from the band in the months ahead.
Riot !n Magenta
The Good Life Project
Photographs courtesy of Jazreel-Anne.
(Note: This review is filled with spoilers. Mainly because I find it hard to believe that after reading this, you would be insane enough to still want to watch this turkey!)
This Fantastic Four reboot never had a chance. From the get-go, geeks hated it. From director Josh Trank boasting about how his version would be a ‘game-changer’ to the controversial casting, this reboot has had a troubled journey. Sadly, the finished movie justifies the hate and then some.
In an attempt to ‘modernise’ the origins of the Fantastic Four – and borrowing from the Ultimate Fantastic Four series – the movie gutted out everything that made Fantastic Four so special in the first place. That sense of connection. One never got that sense from this movie.
In the comic book origin, scientist Reed Richards and pilot Ben Grimm were best friends; Susan Storm was Richards’ girlfriend and Johnny Storm was Susan’s brother. Without the pre-existing relationship between Reed and Susan, their link is tenuous. Also, in the movie, Susan and Johnny are adopted siblings and of different races as well. This made any connections between them rather hard to swallow.
From that poor foundation, it becomes impossible for Trank to build up an effective story with too many plot holes to fill. For example, Reed is recruited by the Baxter Institute by way of a science fair experiment? Ludicrous. Susan gets her power without even being part of the inter-dimensional jaunt? Illogical. After the accident, Reed disappears for a year – a plot point that fails to serve the story at all!
The movie takes ridiculous short-cuts throughout, without any explanation. We never see how the characters develop their powers – we are given the finished product instead. The battle scenes are incredibly lame and do not get me started how Fox utterly fucked up Doctor Doom yet again!
Firstly, how did Victor Von Doom survive for a year in Planet Zero (not the Negative Zone, as it should have been). Secondly, why are there no security precautions to deal with Doom when everyone who returned from Planet Zero has some incredible powers. Finally, why is it so easy for the Fantastic Four to dispatch Doom when earlier he was shown to kill people by merely looking at them?
Suffice to say that this is one of the worst superhero movies in recent memory and will take its rightful place alongside X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3.
DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE AND HOPEFULLY IT WILL BE ENOUGH OF A FAILURE SO THAT FOX WILL GIVE UP AND RETURN THE FANTASTIC FOUR TO MARVEL.
Wow! This happened! Quite out of the blue and somewhat under the radar, Allura has dropped a new EP after disappearing for SIX years!
I won’t lie – listening to the 1832 EP is akin to a religious experience! The musical sophistication displayed in these new recordings is a wonder to behold certainly.
“Rain” is an interesting amalgam of pop with experimental musicality, “Loose Change” is an intensely emotional diatribe and “Cold*Player” is an intriguing piece that deserves a couple of plays to fully soak in.
Kudos to Aaron, Mark John, Inch, Matt and HQ for putting this wonderful gift together – it’s been too fucking long!
And that’s not all, Allura reunites for a live performance at this weekend’s 100bands festival on 8th August at 8pm!
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What can I say about Seamonster? I feel like just grabbing you, dear reader, by the throat and screaming into your ear – “BUY THE FUCKING ALBUM NOW!” and not feel any guilt about such a violent outburst at all.
But seriously folks, what can I say about Seamonster?
That this amazing band viz. Joshua Wan (keyboards), Fabian Lim (saxophone), Jase Sng (bass), Aaron Lee (drums) and Ginny Bloop (vocals) has made jazz improvisation appealing to the soul with ten tracks that beggar belief for its technical excellence and emotional resonance. Every single member is a master of his instrument but together, they form an indefinable creature – a veritable Seamonster!
You want instrumental virtuosity? You can, in spades! You want irresistible grooves? Again, there are loads to spare here.
And the icing on the cake? The absolute tipping point into pure unbridled adulation?
Ginny Bloop – an idiosyncratic front-person who is at once sexy and quirky, possessed of a unique larynx that twists and turns like some leviathan, clothed with a personality that is also tongue-in-cheek woman-child – an unstoppable force!
See what I mean? Incomprehensible babbling of a madman touched by the magic of The Steve McQueens. You have been warned!
Seamonster is available in Singapore on all major digital music platforms. Physical copies of the CD can also be ordered at www.stevemcqueens.com
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What’s new? Well, here’s three melodic pop-rock gems you can stream without fear! Dive in!!
VERUCA SALT – GHOST NOTES
Talking about a 90s rock revival, here’s the reunion album of Veruca Salt, sounding smashing in a beefy Brad Wood production. First rate songs that make the years melt away.
BEST FRIENDS – HOT. RECKLESS. TOTALLY INSANE
More actual evidence of a 90s rock revival comes in the form of Sheffield’s Best Friends. Fuzzy guitars, knowing pop tunes and punk rhythms. It’s happening, boys and girls!
EZTV – CALLING OUT
Power pop band hailing from Brooklyn, that has a good handle of 90s pop underground dynamics viz. infectious melodies, jangly guitar tones and sophisticated chord changes. Highly promising.
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Three new releases for your discovery!
JAILL – BRAIN CREAM
Jangle pop rules with Jaill! If you dig the likes of Real Estate or Girls, you’ll fall in love with this collection of energetic melodic pop-rock tunes.
DU BLONDE – WELCOME BACK TO MILK
Beth Jeans Houghton has attitude in spades but with the right kind of music, she deserves to get away with it! Du Blonde is everything you’ve loved about punky glammy rock n roll and then some!
SONGHOY BLUES – MUSIC IN EXILE
A Mali band of musicians that had to run away from the unrest in their homeland to deliver a wonderful amalgam of African ethnic music and rock ‘n’ roll – edgy and relevant.
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I don’t really give a shit too much right now about the personal dynamics of Kid Wave – what their collective history or politics is and what not. Right now, all I care is that this is new music that fires my imagination and energises in a manner that so much new music is unable to do and that’s all I fucking care about.
Yeah, so the fact that NME wants so much to shag Kid Wave is alarming but going beyond that hype bullshit, there is the music that recalls the wonder of the 90s, where melodic rock of the 60s – 80s was gloriously regurgitated to grant us a shimmering amalgam of 60s psych-blues, 70s rock and 80s indie pop.
So Wonderlust – what a great album title – is yet another brick in the wall of keeping out all the mediocre pap that flood our airwaves on a daily basis as songs like “Honey”, “Baby Tiger”, “Walk On Fire”, “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart” and the title track raise the hopes of this melodic rock geek that pop salvation is upon us.
Fuck real music – this is genuine, authentic, bona fide rockin’ pop & roll!!!
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On new album The Monsanto Years, Neil Young seems re-invigorated with new backing band Promise of The Real, to deliver one of his feistiest works in recent memory. Rather like Living With War (2006), the politics might be a little too obvious but there’s no faulting the songs that Young and gang have come up with – full of vim and vigour.
Full of country-folk inflected rock ‘n’ roll, songs like “A New Day For Love”, “People Want to Hear the Love”, “Workin’ Man” and the title track come across like vintage Young, except with very modern references (highly anti-corporation rhetoric against Monsanto, Starbucks etc) – which I suspect will endear the evergreen Young to a new generation of music lovers. But of course, for Young, the album reflects the continuation of the hippie dream, which has been part of Young’s raison d’être since the 1960s.
Here are six new releases – spread across the three streaming services (based in Singapore) – that get the Power of Pop Recommendation!
YOUNG BUFFALO – HOUSE
The album opens with a deceptive synth-pop motif before morphing into a Vampire Weekend cliche before the gorgeous melodic power pop channeling chorus kicks in! Inventive chord progressions, bouncy energy and stack o’ tunes marked this as a winner! https://www.facebook.com/youngbuffalo
GENTLEMEN ROGUES – A HISTORY SO REPEATING
More traditional power pop from Gentlemen Rogues – referencing Big Star and acolytes like Teenage Fanclub and Pernice Brothers. Good tunes. https://www.facebook.com/gentlemenrogues
ANCIENT RIVER – KEEPER OF THE DAWN
Ethereal, sinister, psychedelic chamber pop that recalls The Doors and Syd’s Pink Floyd. Definitely unique in the scheme of things. https://www.facebook.com/ancientriverband
MIKAL CRONIN – MCIII
Widescreen rock is the speciality of Mikal Cronin with his latest album continuing his rich vein of form in the last couple of years. http://mikalcronin.com/
COLLEEN GREEN – I WANT TO GROW UP
Straight-up girl-group indie pop that recalls Best Coast and Cults. https://www.facebook.com/colleengreen420
TAYLOR LOCKE – TIME STANDS STILL
Ex-Rooney guitarist has released one of the best 70s West Coast rock albums this year. Strongly evocative of a magical era. Essential. https://www.facebook.com/TaylorLockeMusic
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When one listens to Oceans, it becomes abundantly crystal clear that for singer-songwriter Deon Toh, it’s all about the music. In this digital age, Toh has gone against the grain to approach the album as a viable artistic expression, like in the days of yore. There are eleven one-word titled tracks on this, his follow-up to the well-received Antiphobic, bookended by “Circles” and “Cycles”, which speak to the impact of seasons in our lives.
There is beauty, grace and strength in compositions like “Summer”, “Fall”, “Winter” and “Spring” where Toh is able to conjure the experience of the seasons, whether it is something physical or symbolic. The over-riding emotion might be melancholy but it is not defeatist but reflective. Whether it is in the piano harmonic structures, fragile guitar arpeggios, arranged percussion, ambient soundscapes or Toh’s falsetto, there is a deliberate intent to evoke a sense of longing and yearning in the presence of natural splendour.
It is a significant achievement that Oceans is an album one can (and MUST) listen to from beginning to end and then to start all over again. A gorgeous song cycle that once again sets the bar higher for Singapore artists to emulate.
In the meantime, check out the music video for “Summer” below.
Look out for the Power of Pop interview with Deon Toh coming soon…
You see that image above? That’s really what modern day blockbusters have done with plot, characterisation and narrative logic. Gobbled it all up in the name of box office green. Special effects rather than good writing create ‘tension’ and ‘drama’. This visual feast has audiences going ga-ga over the empty spectacle while ignoring plot holes & shallow one-dimensional characters. But it’s all okay, it’s only a movie so relax, why don’t you?
Well, remember that you reap what you sow. All the box office millions earned by movies like Jurassic World and less we forget, the Transformers franchise only leads to more similar movies. As it is, movie studios are terrified about releasing ‘genre’ films unless it’s a sequel, reboot or book/comic/TV adaptation and the mega-success of Jurassic World simply cements that opinion.
There’s little point in going into these issues in detail but suffice to say that: –
1. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character spends the entire film in high heels whilst running and battling dinosaurs.
2. The manner in which the ‘evil’ dinosaur is defeated by the ‘good’ dinosaurs is preposterous.
But why bother about making sense when you can make US$500 million in a weekend instead?
The problem with Tzang Merwyn Tong’s FAERYVILLE – if one can even call it a problem – is that the movie might be too ambitious for its own good.
FAERYVILLE is a movie with a strong message, in fact there are quite a few to go around. These themes are expressed in the context of a surrealistic satire on modern life. The title refers to an imaginary fairy tale like setting and in particular, a tertiary educational institution.
Within this context, there are two main competing factions/power bases viz. the haves and have nots. Tzang wants us initially to sympathise with the Nobodies, a group of outsiders (ostensibly led by Poe – wonderfully played by Lyon Sim) who spend their time being rebellious by committing illegal albeit harmless pranks. The group is joined by the mysterious Laer (a moody performance from Aaron Samuel Yong) and then the stunts turn dangerous and events spiral out of control.
The group’s antics are contrasted with the bullying tactics of the Calvary (the frat boys equivalent of the college) who lord their authority over everyone else – seemingly with the acquiesce of its principal – which often turns very dark without warning. This conflict invariably and inevitably leads to disaster, tied in inexplicably with former anarchist Belle, before panning out into a disturbing conclusion.
Trying to find a delicate balance between art and commerce, Tzang has had to cast his actors carefully (eye candy is in abundance – look out for Tanya Graham and Jade Griffin) and mix up his high concepts with highly charged moments (including several explosions and sexual scenes) but without compromising the underlying message, where possible. Overall, I believe Tzang has succeeded in creating a thought-provoking movie but fear that it might somewhat fly over the heads of most people in his own homeland.
Which is ironic considering that much of FAERYVILLE is inspired by growing up in Singapore but what is the saying about a prophet not being recognised in his own hometown? A brave and remarkable vision that might be a little obscured by technical and budgetary issues but for the true seeker, there is much hidden treasure to discover in FAERYVILLE.
FAERYVILLE will open in Singapore on 26 May 2015, exclusively at Filmgarde Bugis+
Tickets on sale from 7 May, www.fgcineplex.com.sg
Now here’s something completely different!
Victor Low (formerly of Concave Scream and The Observatory) has recorded and released an album of short instrumental tunes (mostly under 2 minutes), that he says were inspired by his own childhood and the bedtime stories shared with his young daughter, Ee Shahn.
These ten tracks are delightful and thoughtful experiments into songwriting targeted for children or the young at heart. Mostly neo-classical in tone with acoustic guitars (steel and nylon) at the fore, assorted percussion and the occasional cello (courtesy of Zhong Ren Koh), it’s easy to simply play through the duration of Songs of the Well and revel in its rustic sophistication.
My personal favourites are “Drip Drop”, “Swallow” and “Geckos of Eastwood” – which highlight Low’s focus on naive charm but the arty “Song of the Well” recalls Low’s time with art-rock ensemble The Observatory. It’s an atmospheric ambient song whose origins, Low was kind enough to elaborate on.
“When I was writing the songs in this album. I would often bring my guitar out of my studio to sit in the stairwell where I live, just to get a bit of a natural reverb. This really helped me to ease into the ideas and finish writing the songs (or the main bulk of it) rather quickly. A thought occurred to myself that these songs seem to be coming from “the well”, and it ended up being the title of the album. Ironically the track “Song of The Well” was the only song not written from the stairwell. Instead it was done in my studio, using music boxes, cymbals and effects”.
If there is one obvious complaint, it is that the songs are too short! I mean, once a enthralled listener really gets into the piece, it’s over!! Hopefully, Low will see fit to expand on the artistic success of Songs of the Well to give us fans more in the years to come. Please encourage that possibility by purchasing Songs of the Well.
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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.
If you have read my spoiler-free review, you would be aware that I loved Avengers: Age of Ultron and consider it by far the best superhero movie ever so far. However, based on numerous online comments, it has become de rigueur to label the movie as a disappointing sequel to the first movie, with the common criticism being that the movie has too much going on. My first reaction to this is — have these people ever read an actual superhero comic book before? Probably not. In that regard, I believe that director Joss Whedon made Avengers: Age of Ultron for us geeks and for that I am certainly grateful!
— SPOILERS ALERT —
Am not much of a theatre-goer but my main interest in covering Ragnarok has always been the fact that Esther Lowless would be acting and singing her original compositions within the body of the play itself. A unique opportunity to catch Esther in an entirely different creative environment.
According to its press release, “Ragnarok serves to confront its audience with difficult questions about issues of identity, power and illness that have evolved within the global gay community” but what makes the play ambitious is the concept of using Norse mythology and the apocalyptic myth of Ragnarok as an allegorical device. Of course, to appreciate this, one would need to understand Norse mythology to begin with and it’s much more than that hunky God of Thunder in the Marvel movies (and yes, the next Thor movie is sub-titled Ragnarok as well)!
So I reiterate that the purpose of this review is not really to evaluate the merits of the play per se, although I did find it intriguing if somewhat overwrought with the performances uneven. Instead, I focus on Esther Lowless. She plays Hel (in Norse, mythology, a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead), the bartender and musical performer at gay bar, Asgard. Her role is mainly as a passive observer and commentator (through the music performances) although Hel does have her moments as agent provocateur.
The key challenge for Esther is that Hel is on stage throughout the entire duration of the play! Thus, there is no break for Esther whatsoever! In that respect, she performs admirably combining her acting with musical performances superbly with wonderful new songs that imbue the play with much gravitas and emotional resonance. Some of my favourite moments – when the cast joins with Esther for bizarre singalongs – the play takes on the tone of a cracked musical – unsettling but transcendent at the same time!
There are 3 more performances of Ragnarok. Saturday 18th is sold out but tickets for tonight and Friday night are still available at time of press. Don’t miss this #sgindie music lovers!
Get your tickets from http://www.skinnedkneeproductions.com/productions-ragnarok.html
What goes up must come down.
In 1979, riding on the popularity of the Saturday Night’s Fever film soundtrack, the Bee Gees‘ Spirits (Having Flown) sold almost 20 million copies. I still remember heading down to the Kwang Sia record store at North Bridge Road where the LP was literally flying off the shelves. Crazy.
However, barely 2 years later, the band’s follow-up Living Eyes would only sell 750,000 copies worldwide! What happened?
Well, disco had become unfashionable and the Bee Gees were (unfairly) associated with the genre. Not only that but rock music had begun to make a return to the charts in a big way with bands like The Police, REO Speedwagon, Genesis, Rush et al, and suddenly the Bee Gees sounded very dated and somewhat lame.
That said, the Bee Gees themselves took pains on Living Eyes to move away from the disco sound that had made millions of them and the trio explored once again the pop balladry style with which they first made their name. But the music critics and fans alike did not want any of it resulting in an abject failure, that the Bee Gees barely recovered from.
BUT listening to Living Eyes now, 34 years later, it is clear that it did not deserve the criticism and hatred it did. The songwriting is sharp, the singing is beautiful and it’s fair to say that the album should be re-assessed by any serious pop music lover.
Songs like the title track, “Paradise”, “Don’t Fall in Love With Me”, “Wildflower” and “Soldiers” are as good as anything on 70s classics “Mr. Natural” and “Main Course”. True blue pop fans will find these tracks irresistible and will want to listen to them over and over to savour the wondrous melodies and harmonies.
Listen without prejudice and prepare to be amazed.
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