A transitional year for me. I welcomed the new decade as a National Serviceman having enlisted on Boxing Day, 1979. But more importantly, my musical tastes were changing as well, significantly. Sometime in 1978, I had been exposed to punk when a JC friend played to my friends & I, the Sex Pistols‘ Anarchy in the UK LP (banned in Singapore but smuggled in for good measure) and to be honest I was unimpressed. For a pop-rock lover weaned on The Beatles, Deep Purple, Queen, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols seemed dumb and barbaric!
That said, by 1980 I had begun to cotton on to the post-punk movement and had already started listening to the pioneering new bands of that era, which seemed far removed from the old-school rockers of my relative youth. Fueled by the noises made by rock mags like NME, Sounds & Melody Maker, I had started to abandon the old bands (as irrelevant) and had ‘embraced’ the future of rock.
Six rock bands over two nights. Not strictly ‘metal’, more like ‘hard rock’ – the distinction I make is that there is more melodic content in these bands – Alice in Chains even has harmonies! But there’s gonna be speed, riffs and heavy heavy vibes throughout. Hope you’ve got your tickets! See you there!
Breaking news: Grunge rockers Alice in Chains will headline and close Singapore Rock Festival on 6th March 2014! The band completes the Thursday night lineup with Alter Bridge and Jason Newsted. Rob Zombie, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch and Black Veil Brides provide the metal entertainment on Wednesday 5th March.
Here’s the schedule for St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore on 25th January. It’s heartening to see that Singapore acts have been given due respect and equal treatment as they should be. Apart from The Observatory, Vandetta and Gema, I am looking forward to The Jezabels, Kurt Vile, Frightened Rabbit and Savages.
Here’s a festival specially made for all you metalheads out there.
Tickets for the first night on March 5 is on sale now while tickets for the second night on March 6 goes on sale 9:00 AM on January 10 at www.sistic.com.sg
Early Bird Doubleshot Package: $198 (both nights)
Early Bird Single Shot: $118
Standard Single Shot: $128
At the door: $148
Sistic booking fee not included.
To Book tickets in Singapore:
By Phone: +65 6348-5555
Agents: At all authorized Sistic outlets in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Tickets can also be purchased through the SISTIC Mobile and iNETS mobile apps.
SISTIC Mobile is available at the Apple App Store, Google Play store or Samsung Apps. Download iNETS mobile through the Apple App store or Google Play store or SMS to 76387.
Regular visitors to PoP will be aware that I believe that the 70s was the finest decade for pop and rock music ever. And one excellent resource which allows the avid music fan to access this classic rock music is Spotify (haha you saw that coming!). But seriously folks, I’d like to leave you with introductory playlists I’ve curated of three classic 70s rock bands, which I hope will encourage you to explore more on Spotify.
This live performance film from Luna Park, Bueno Aires, captures Dream Theater Mark II as the band tours 2011 album A Dramatic Turn of Events. After having drummer Mike Portnoy leave the band a year earlier, as explained in the documentary bonus feature, Dream Theater was revitalized with the recruitment of Mike Mangini and the subsequent release of A Dramatic Turn of Events. Judging from the album and this concert film, Mangini has assisted to reshape the band’s sound towards progressive metal, which has certainly not hurt the band’s reputation. Mangini in facts takes centrestage quite a bit with his enigmatic style. No slouch in the virtuosity department, Mangini more than keeps up with his illustrious partners viz. guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. That all said, it does seem at times that singer James LaBrie is unsuited for this change of direction but there’s little doubt that he still makes the material his own. Dream Theater fans will not want to miss this as the band goes from strength to strength.
Was 2013 a good year for popular music? It all depends on your definition of a ‘good year’. I believe that since the end of the 90s, the decline in the quality of popular music being written and recorded has been alarming. Compared to the previous 40 years, it’s fair to say that much of the popular music that has come out of the new millennium has been – with some exceptions, of course – largely forgettable.
Finally! Charlie Lim has released two new singles (viz. “Bitter” and “Conspiracy”) and both tracks can be downloaded for FREE from Bandwagon (limited to first 1000 signups) so HURRY!!!!
Suffice to say, “Bitter” is a heart-wrenchingly gorgeous jazz-pop piece with dynamism, virtuosity and dollops of soul that deserves to be a worldwide hit (whatever that means nowadays) – please don’t miss out! “Conspiracy” demonstrates a different side of Charlie as smooth R&B inflections, infectious funky beats and cool vibes make the song a hot dancefloor hit contender! Another essential track for your collection!
The true measure of a rock star is the kind of fans he or she has. Springsteen & I is a documentary with a difference – it was made for Springsteen fans by Springsteen fans! By the end of the documentary, you will be convinced about the depth of love and passion that Springsteen fans hold for their icon. Judging from the diversity in age and nationality, it’s clear that Springsteen’s appeal covers a broad range of fans. This special connection is what makes this documentary unique. Also worth checking out – numerous previously unseen archive footage of performances from throughout Springsteen’s career. The DVD bonus features include performances from 2012′s Hard Rock Calling (including two songs with Paul McCartney) and fan homemade video submissions.
Paul Weller first caught the public eye as a teenager with The Jam during the emerging punk years (late 70s) in England. Taking his cue from the Beatles, Small Faces, Kinks and The Who, Weller’s punchy and relevant songs launched the Woking trio (with bassist Bruce Foxton & drummer Rick Buckler) into the hearts and minds of British youth, achieving much success and acclaim on the way before calling a day in 1982 at Weller’s insistence.
Weller felt constrained by The Jam’s image and collective persona and formed (with keyboard player Mick Talbot) The Style Council to broaden his artistic horizons. So he literally plunged in at the deep end, developing an image that was miles away from the Jam – chic, sophisticated, Gallic, jazzy & brassy, the Style Council carried on where The Jam left off and Weller personally intensified his own socio-political ambitions during that time. However, things would eventually turn sour between Weller and label Polydor culminating in the label’s rejection of the last TSC album and its ultimate demise in the late 1980s. Weller seemed to disappear completely from the UK music scene. Spending his hiatus in reflection and regeneration, he re-emerged as a solo artist – unable initially to secure a UK record deal (he signed up with Pony Canyon Japan for his eponymous solo debut) – his star would rise again with the coming of Britpop in the 90s as bands like Blur, Oasis & Ocean Colour Scene acknowledged their debt to Weller. By his third album, Stanley Road, Weller had once again reached the summit of the UK Albums Chart.
“Down in a Tube Station at Midnight,” Jam single (Polydor, 1978)
“Down in a Tube Station at Midnight” proved that Weller was more than just punk opportunist or mod revisionist, he was an artist. Its structure is stop-start and its monotonous rhythmic underpinnings express perfectly the movement of a train. Lyrically, it provides a concise snapshot of the England of the late 1970s – claustrophobic, class conscious, economically depressed and socially dangerous. Its story is simple and stark, a tube passenger is ‘mugged’ by gangsters (‘they smelled of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right-wing meetings’) on his way home to the wife. And in the closing verses even as the protaganist’s life ebbs away, his last thoughts are of advertising images and graffiti on the tube walls. Powerful and affecting. Note: the album version (on All Mod Cons) completes the picture with the sounds of a train opening & closing its doors and moving off even as the instrumental passages fade in and out again – truly poignant.
“The Paris Match,” B-side Style Council single, A Paris (Polydor, 1983)
A torch song in every sense of the word and tucked away as a b-side (!) no less, “The Paris Match” remains Style Council’s finest moment where Weller was able to blend romanticism and sophistication with Gallic flair and savvy – no mean feat for a Woking lad! The accordion solo is pure heaven.
“Tales from the Riverbank,” B-side Jam single Absolute Beginners (Polydor, 1981)
Moody and introspective, “Tales from the Riverbank” provided the flip side to the Jam’s more recognisable anthems. With its insistent bass line, spidery guitar patterns and concepts of urban decay & menace, “Tales from the Riverbank” is a wondrous highlight buried obscurely as a B-side, which bore testimony to Weller’s prodigious talent.
“That’s Entertainment,” from The Jam Sound Affects (Polydor, 1980)
A Weller diary-in-a-song: with George Harrison headily evoked, “That’s Entertainment” spoke of the mundanity of day-to-day living – ” A smash of glass and the rumble of boots/An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth/Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat/Lights going out and a kick in the balls ” – sheer bloody poetry!
“Sunflower,” from Paul Weller Wild Wood (GO! Discs, 1993)
On his sophomore effort, Weller decided to flow with the Traffic – decidedly more Steve Winwood than Steve Marriott! Transparent as usual with his influences, Sunflower is an intense rocker that is as soulful as it is pastoral. A great introduction to this breakthrough solo album.
“A Town Called Malice,” from The Jam The Gift (Polydor, 1982)
Perhaps the Jam’s best known tune, “Malice” featured Weller’s incisive assessment of English life – ” Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the diary yards/And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts ” sung to a tune reminiscent of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” (Yup! The one that Phil Collins took to the top of the charts)
“Uh Huh Oh Yeh,” from Paul Weller Paul Weller (Pony Canyon, 1992)
More than debut single “Into Tomorrow,” this R&B inflected mover announced that Weller was back! Based around a familiar three-chord progression, embellished with swirling organs, tight horns and a simple choral riff, one cannot help but be carried away by its cheerful optimism.
“In the Crowd,” from The Jam All Mod Cons (Polydor, 1978)
“And life just simply moves along/To simple houses, simple jobs and no ones wanting for the change ” bear Ray (The Kinks) Davies trademark slice-of-life writing applied to The Who pyrotechnics resulting in an incandescent commentary of English society that well and truly rocks!
“Speak Like A Child,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1983)
The re-invention of Paul Weller began with this Motown-inflected pleaser. However, Jam observers would not have been surprised as the stylistic shift is evident on The Gift, the final Jam album. What perhaps shocked was the total absence of the GUITAR! If only we knew what was in store for Weller fanatics!
“Peacock Suit,” Paul Weller Heavy Soul (Independiente, 1996)
“Peacock Suit” appears to poke fun at Weller’s own well-known satorial obsessions – ” I’m a narcissus in a puddle/In shop windows I gloat/Like a ball of fleece lining/In my camel skin coat”. Set to a driving beat, the song is a sheer delight and demonstrates Weller’s deft skill with the post-modern take on British R&B traditions.
“To Be Someone,” from The Jam All Mod Cons (Polydor, 1978)
With the critical beating that This Is The Modern World received, Weller and The Jam returned with a vengeance with All Mod Cons their best album. “To be Someone” opens the album and seems to uncannily forecast Oasis (!) both in its music and lyrical target – “And there’s no more drinking after the club shuts down/I’m out on my arse with the rest of the clowns.”
“My Ever Changing Moods,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1984)
Here is Paul Weller in full Curtis (Mayfield i.e.) mode, driving treble rhythms, tasty horns and a rhythm that just won’t quit.
“The Changingman,” from Paul Weller Stanley Road (GO! Discs, 1995)
Weller’s tribute to Jeff Lynne no doubt, as he freely pilfers from ELO’s “10538 Overture” shamelessly (down to the cellos) to sing lyrics about being a “changing man” with tongue firmly in cheek and a riposte to all his critics. Creative plagiarism at its best.
“You’re the Best Thing,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1984)
Weller’s finest romantic hour, as he concocts the perfect heart-tugger for lovers everywhere – the urban counterpart to the pastoral “English Rose”.
“In the City,” Jam single (Polydor, 1977)
Where it all began: an 18-year-old Steve Marriott wannabe lumped in with the punk set but possessing a breadth that would surpass most of his peers delivers his first stab at pop greatness. Clocking in at 2’20” In the City functioned as a statement of intent and a reaffirmation of British pop ala The Who, The Kinks, Small Faces and so on.
“Beatlesque” is one of my favorite music terms. I mean, who wouldn’t want to listen to music that sounds like The Beatles, eh? Of course, the key is not slavish imitation but to use the influence of The Beatles as a springboard for (hopefully) fresh ideas. Here are some bands that certainly come to mind, when the term “Beatlesque” is brandished about…
THE BYRDS – ALL I REALLY WANNA DO
Yes, I am aware that the song was written but by Bob Dylan, but The Byrds arranged Dylan’s folkie “All I Really Wanna Do” deliberately to reflect their love of the Fab Four, especially on the bridge. And let’s not even get into the hairdos…
BADFINGER – DAY AFTER DAY
A little cheatin’ here cos Badfinger was actually signed to Apple Records and this single was also produced by George Harrison so the comparisons with their heroes were always fairly obvious. Great song still…and certainly a foundation for numerous power pop bands to come…
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – THE DIARY OF HORACE WIMP
ELO was formed by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood to re-create the Beatles psychedelic classics (like “I Am A Walrus”) live. When Wood left, Lynne turned the band into a hit-making machine in the 70s. Beatles inspirations always began as a starting point (like here, the rhythm of the middle section to “A Day in a Life”) to something entire new and different. In a league of its own.
OASIS – ALL AROUND THE WORLD
To the current generation, the closest one is going to get to The Beatles reference would probably be through Oasis. Often derided as Beatles copyists, in fact, the Gallagher brothers succeeded in copping the imagery and look of The Beatles, rather than any creative impetus. That and Liam Gallagher’s ludicrous attempts to imitate John Lennon’s singing style. Best forgotten.
To be honest, it is almost impossible to escape the influence of The Beatles in modern music, whatever ‘genre’ you may choose to discuss. The legacy of The Beatles was not merely four chords, clever bridges and three-part harmonies but constant experimentation. When that stopped (listen to Let It Be, folks), then it was time for The Beatles to end. The above examples only highlight a very simplified perception of what the term “Beatlesque” means and usually referred to by people as Beatles music pre-Revolver, when The Beatles was much much more than that… but that’s another story altogether.
“Old Fart Music” or “Dad-rock” are two derogatory terms that the music press might use to brand a ‘genre’ or band as past its sell-by date. But this is all nonsense, of course. All rock music is derived from “Dad-rock” as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy was quoted in Rolling Stone in 2011 –
“When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock. There are a lot of things today that don’t have anything to do with rock music, so when people hear something that makes them think, ‘This is derived from some sort of continuation of the rock ethos,’ it gets labeled dad rock. And, to me, those people are misguided. I don’t find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking, you know?”
Indeed, I hate to break it to you, kids, but EVERYBODY grows old. The true artist is someone who still has something to say even when he or she is much older. Every youth culture is based on something that came before so kindly refrain from these ageist pronunciations.
For this bright Saturday morning’s PoPTV, we’ve decided to bring you some of our favourite OFM or Dad-rock for your edification and information. Enjoy…
As any card-carrying XTC fanatic will inform you, the Swindon-based band spent the better part of the 90s on strike from their record label Virgin, finally earning their freedom from a draconian contract sometime in 1998. The band then set up their own label – Idea – and proceeded to release two albums (Apple Venus & Wasp Star) in consecutive years!
So it certainly behooves the band to flood the market with as many XTC-related products as possible just to make up for lost time. So whilst ecstatic fans have been lapping up the demo and instrumental versions of the two latest albums and Virgin was kind enough to issue the Coat of Many Cupboards box set, the duo decided to begin releasing the voluminous demos (subject of legend and lore and much bootlegging) Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding amassed during that seven-year industrial action.
Alas, Moulding changed his mind and so we have volumes one and two of Fuzzy Warbles as Partridge begins an ambitious program to give his fans what they have been waiting for a long time.
And is it all worth the wait and the expense? Why most certainly! Here’s why…
From Volume One, Partridge includes the delightful “Dame Fortune” (inextricably left off Apple Venus One), the bouncy “Don’t Let Us Bug You” (written for Disney’s animated James and the Giant Peach – now that would have been something!), a fiery demo of “That Wave” (off Nonsuch) that surpasses the recorded version for sheer intensity, the folky “Everything” (excluded from Oranges and Lemons), the whimsical “Goosey Goosey” (also for Nonsuch), the chirpy “Summer Hot As This” (circa 1984 – with erstwhile member Dave Gregory on guitar, a bonus!) and the offbeat “Wonder Annual” (another that failed to make the grade for Nonsuch).
Slide in Volume Two and one gets the unusually stripped down and straightforward “I Don’t Want To Be Here” (recorded for a AIDS Charity disc), the domestic tirade “Young Marrieds” – ‘Love and marriage go hand in hand like horse and horse shit’ (meant for Wasp Star), the political “Obscene Procession” – a precursor of “President Kill” perhaps? (for Skylarking apparently), the jaunty “Ra Ra Rehearsal” & “Ra Ra For Red Rocking Horse” (not quite up to the rest of Psonic Psunspot, I wager), the McCartney-esque “Everything’ll Be Alright” (also for Giant Peach), the frenetic “Chain of Command” (a blast from the past, 1979 in fact!), a gorgeously cod-psychedelic version of Nonsuch’s “Then She Appeared,” the lovely enigmatic “It’s Snowing Angels” (circa 1990) and the vivid “Ship Trapped In the Ice,” written to reflect XTC’s Virgin dilemma.
And there you have it, not meant for the XTC newbie but once you picked up every single fantastic work released by this awesome band, then Fuzzy Warbles tend to become fairly indispensable items to have and to hold. For even if the discs did not contain precious XTC artifacts, the professional sound and overall amazing quality of the tracks here make Fuzzy Warbles important albums for any serious-minded music fan to explore and absorb. A+ (Vol. 1) & A (Vol. 2)
Platinum sellers Ugly Kid Joe have come back after a long vacation, and they’re ready to rock harder than ever. The California band’s new EP, Stairway to Hell, is due on April 16th through MRI, and it contains songs that span the full repertoire of influences that made Ugly Kid Joe the soundtrack for young snowboarders, surfers, and keggers worldwide. Here’s the first new track – “I’m Alright” – check it out!
To be honest, I never expected to write this review. Up to the point that I received the email from Peipei (LIKES Communications), I had not even heard of Hong Kong/Canadian singer-songwriter Ellen Loo. And when Peipei invited me to catch Ellen’s show at the Esplanade Recital Studio, I was feeling a bit mixed. After all, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Mandarin pop but I thought – “nothing ventured, nothing gained” – and I am so glad that I took the plunge.
Simon Townshend released one of the more intriguing albums of 2012, the under-rated Looking Out, Looking In. We were fortunate and privileged to be able to pose a couple of questions to Townshend via email and we set out his responses below.
As a musician/recording artist, has being the younger brother of Pete Townshend been an advantage or disadvantage and why so?
I think it works both ways. I suppose I have a lot to live up to, especially when some people expect so much of me. Having said that my name has opened a few doors that would have perhaps remained shut. I am really proud of my brother and have always loved his music / lyrics – The Who are one of my all time favourite bands. However, I have many other musical influences and my sound is unique. I think once people realise that the sibling association takes a back seat they will judge me on my own merits. At the end of the day it’s down to me and my music to win music lovers over.
It’s no secret that I have been incredibly wary of the current wave of the Post-Punk Revival, believing that it is mostly warmed up leftovers from a special musical epoch now 25 years old. But of course, there is an exception to every rule.
This Portland-based band started life as a spiky noisenik outfit and released a debut album in that vein in 2003 viz. Chrome Rats vs Basement Rutz. However, in 2005, Chromatics would undergo radical changes to its lineup with Ruth Radelet (vocals), Johnny Jewel (producer/multi-instrumentalist), and Nat Walker (drums/synthesizer) joining, with guitarist Adam Miller the remaining founder. The result was a sophomore release – Night Drive – that having taken electronica fully on board, with strong hints of the Post-Punk Revival. The track “Tick of the Clock” gained recognition after it was featured on the Drive soundtrack.
Which set the stage for the latest album – Kill for Love – released earlier in 2012, and in my humble estimation, one of the best albums of the Post-Punk Revival era, let alone 2012. Right from the opening cover version of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My (Into the Black) – the haunting “Into the Black” (video below), it is obvious that Chromatics is not interested in sounding like the rest of the sheep copycat hipster bands out there in the modern rock wasteland.
“Kill for Love” may superficially recall the 80s with its New Order/Depeche Mode references but there is a distinct attitude especially in Radelet’s languid vocal delivery. Miller’s guitar work helps songs like “These Strings Will Never Look the Same” and “Dust to Dust” escape the usual hipster cliches by channeling a hybrid of older sounds coupled with the now-traditional dance pop styles. Not only that but the band’s penchant for emphasizing soundtrack designs in songs like “Broken Mirrors” and “The Eleventh Hour” keeps the aural experience intriguing always.
More thoughtful (and less trippier) than its predecessor but Kill for Love demonstrates that it is possible for uncompromising intelligent and artistic bands to make challenging original music during these fallow years.
You can also listen to Kill for Love in its entirety at Soundcloud!
Timbre Music has pulled out all the stops to present its best lineup so far for Rock and Roots 2013. Read ‘em and weep (for joy!)
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND!
Sorry if it sounds like I am shouting but these are five acts to get worked up for – all acclaimed and respected acts in their own right. Personally, I am most excited about Wainwright as the singer-songwriter had released his best album (in my opinion) this year and will definitely be on top of his game when he plays in Singapore. More coverage to come – so stay tuned!
Shanghai’s The Fever Machine to release “La Chupacabra” Dec. 1 at YuYinTang as part of 2012 Booshkabash Music Festival
A blend of swirling, distorted guitars, a machine gun bass attack, and heavy, staccato drums, capped with a memorable vocal melody and hook, “La Chupacabra,” the upcoming release from The Fever Machine, showcases the Shanghai stoner trio hitting its peak.
Six bands battled it out for the grand prize of being named champions of Thunder Band Slam and in the end, The Chromatics (from Singapore Poly, above) proved to be victorious. The competition pitted bands from the various polytechnics in the country against each other as they strived to proved their worth and in the end, six bands viz. Tell Lie Vision, Purple Tiger, Disco Hue, Maybe Tomorrow, Dropbeat Heartbeat and of course, The Chromatics demonstrated to a rapt audience at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre that there is indeed great promise amongst our young musicians that bodes well for the future of S-ROCK.
Scottish rock trio Biffy Clyro have announced the US release of their new album, Opposites, on March 12, 2013 via Warner Bros Records. The first single off Opposites, “Black Chandelier,” has been released. Listen to the song below. It’s pretty hard rock candy. Album review to come…
Produced by Flood & Moulder (PJ Harvey, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) at Assault & Battery studios in London, Holy Fire is the Oxford five-piece’s most direct and fully-realized album yet. First single, “Inhaler” premiered on 6th November and you can watch the video below. Certainly, based on the new single, Foals seems intent on a heavier sonic direction. Review to come.
Lead singers Brigette Herron and Mary Jane Hassell front Tunabunny, a refreshing perspective of the punk rock girl chick aesthetic. Channeling the inspirations of Pretenders, Blondie, The Runaways, Bikini Kill, The Breeders and Sleater-Kinney into a free-form punk-fueled rock style that is difficult not to be entranced by.
Highly prolific – Genius Fatigue is Tunabunny‘s third album in as many years – the band is shot in the arm especially if (like me) you’ve gotten a little sick to the gills of all the namby-pamby, girl group retro jive that hipster tweens seem to get a huge kick out of. There is nothing vaguely pandering (or lowest common denominator) in this collection of confrontational, uncompromising songs.
Tracks like the the hyperventilating “Duchess for Nothing”, the buzz-sawing “Government of Throats”, the atonal “You Do What You Want” and the reverb-drenched Spectoresque satirical “Slackjawed” bring together several strands of contrarian rock through the ages (e.g. The Fall, Pixies, Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett and Pavement) where an abrasive sound coupled with cryptic lyrics provide a superb combination for musical enlightenment!