ELECTRICO

Maybe it had something to do with the unfamiliarity of the new songs that Electrico was showcasing. Maybe it was due to the poor sound at Zouk. Maybe it was down to playing without erstwhile guitarist Daniel Sassoon. Whatever it was, something wasn’t quite right with Electrico’s performance at the album launch of its third CD – We Satellites – last night.

Or maybe it was the high expectations as the word was that the new songs were some of the best Singapore music ever produced. Zouk was packed with yuppies (is that still used or has it come back like so many other 80s colloquialisms). 

The opening songs were edgy affairs and intriguing developments but the middle section sagged a little with a ballad which was ordinary and some Oasis-inflected material (which to me is always a lowest common denominator). I think I really hate Oasis now…

The band came back for its encore with a ripping We Satellites, which at least contained an interesting tune. Which I thinks was the main problem with the new material in general. Short on melodies. I’m hoping that this is a first impression thing and that when I listen to the new album, it’ll come together nicely.

Pix by Song.

… still there’s more …

JACK & RAI

JACK & RAI In Stores Now (Self released)

Better late than never surely applies in the case of Jack & Rai’s delayed debut album. Originally slated for September 2007, the album is finally available and hopefully the pent-up anticipation will see the sales go through the roof. The duo certainly deserve it, after all this time!

Jack & Rai have been playing the Singapore pub and club circuit for a while now and they are certainly popular with pub-crawlers here. Whether on their own or with their band EIC, Jack & Rai are adept at entertaining any crowd with their interpretation of top 40 hits, on-stage banter and harmonic rapport.

What is not so well known is that the boys are accomplished songwriters in their own right. Which is showcased on this excellent debut. Review follows…

Beetle Girl

A smooth pop jazz number about a close encounter of the opposite sex. You can almost feel the class ooze from every note and chord. Sophisticated chord changes tumble and atmospheric synths swirl around what is very elegant tune. Excellent.

The Fa La La Song

The first song I ever heard from Jack & Rai got me hooked instantly with its easy way with melody and harmony. Commercial appeal is obvious and the boys have earmarked it as the first single off the album. Good choice.

Fiona

One of my all-time favorite Singapore tunes. No contest. Presented here in a power pop fashion which escapes most Singapore bands and features an irresistible chorus which echoes the Everly Brothers AND the Fountains of Wayne. Written from a distance for TV actress Fiona Xie. She should be extremely flattered… Should be played over the radio constantly.

Contemplate

As the title suggests, this is a contemplative ballad which find Rai in this element, utilizing his voice in the high register to good effect. As usual, the melody quotient is strong.

Us

It’s Jack’s turn for the thoughtful ballad as he ruminates about romances and love experience. Not as immediate as the rest of the album though.

Pixelated

This chirpy folk-rock treatise on long-distance relationships via videocam (hence, the title) contains a bright chorus that will have you bopping and singing along.

Hurricane

Ah, the piano ballad. Ambitious and never quite easy to pull off, Rai tries his best to convey the emotional core and by and large succeeds.

Poof

A sweet nothing kind of track. Both lyrically and musically. Not that it’s throwaway but it’s so breezy that you might actually be blown away if you get too caught up in the vibe.

Television Affair

Slightly heavier than the rest of the album, Television Affair comes across like Rolling Stones lite and 80s anthemic (think: Bryan Adams, John Cougar Mellancamp) which is a fair stomp live and will no doubt get you toe tapping.

Release Me

A plea for freedom presented in a sweet atmospheric chorus which references Coldplay, Radiohead and U2. Slightly more alt-rock than the rest of the album but an interesting effort that works.

Prophet of Universal Love

Rai imagines himself as a tongue-in-cheek authority on love with this easy listening paean. An excellent closer for a top notch album.

As it stands, In Stores Now, is an album with tremendous commercial appeal, chock full of wonderful melodies and cool vibes. A bit heavy on the ballads but I’m thinking that Jack and Rai’s target audience will thoroughly enjoy every emotion-tinged moment.

It’s been a long time coming but the wait was definitely worth it.

FLYBAR

FLYBAR Scream Without Raising Your Voice (Self-released)

Half the year has come and gone and it is shaping up to be a good one for Singapore music. Last night I attended Flybar’s album launch at the Esplanade Recital Studio – thanks to the kind invitation of Ian and Ben –  and I must say that I enjoyed myself as the band treated the sell-out crowd to an entertaining show of good old fashioned classic pop-rock built around the influences of Oasis, U2 and Santana. 

The band was certainly at home on stage and made the atmosphere very casual – it felt like being at a family reunion. Maybe not very rock ‘n’ roll but the music made up for that and the audience lapped it up. Especially when multi-instrumentalist Jon Ong took turns to play lead guitar, viola, flute and harmonica – a handy guy to have in your band. 

Still raw around the edges, Flybar has the potential to breakthrough to the next level if the music on their debut album is any indication. Speaking of which, here’s the blow-by-blow account.

Unforgiven

I first heard this track on the radio and it was my introduction to the band. I must say that I was hooked instantly – it is a very good song. I love its Bond theme referencing, its Latin music phrasing, incongruent disco beat and its 60s Singapore pop channeling. Great start!

Bitchy Woman

Hahaha! How un-PC! I am picturing Marc Bolan/T-Rex and Mott the Hoople in my head but for the boys it’s probably the influence of Guns ‘n’ Roses and LA Guns that’s behind this rollicking glam rock number. A little by-the-numbers but good for a rave up.

Lose Control

Very 80s-influenced as the slinky funk vibe of INXS is evident here. The band has a definite sense of how to fill up their tracks with the necessary hooks. So, there is always the sense of familiarity but not too much to lose individuality. 

Dance With Me

A little too derivative of Oasis for my taste. The chorus isn’t too bad and you’ve got to admire anyone who works hard to deliver a tasty melody. Commercial appeal is not an issue, either.

Heaven Sent

This one has U2 written all over it. Which is fine by me as what modern band out there isn’t influenced by Bono and Co nowadays. That said, like Dance With Me, the song is functional enough but doesn’t quite move me.

She’s So Lazy

Apparently inspired by a friend who was too tired to go out for drinks after the Oasis concert, predictably it sounds exactly like the Gallagher brothers, although the harmonica is a nice touch. Charming in its (lazy) simplicity.

Mystery Train

The highlight of the album (together with The Unforgiven) and either pretty ballsy or crazy of the band to use such an iconic title for a thoughtful rumination on life. To be honest, it really sounds like something you might find on a CCM* record. I like the sentiment – “Cause you gotta write your own story/You gotta do what you can do and never worry”. A ballad that will have the girls swooning and the boys waving their handphones.

Amazing

One of those macho tracks designed to have women fall at your feet – guaranteed to put hair on your chest (or lip) and make you feel good to be a MAN. Sorry couldn’t resist… Not sure if this is really the band’s forte, I rather prefer when they’re being more subtle.

Beautiful Killer

Here’s a full blown nod to Santana. Listen to the chord changes and Jon’s guitar work if you’re not convinced. A ode to unrequited love. Probably the band’s best known number, certainly it comes across like it was written for the radio.

Live Forever

Now if you had any doubts about that Flybar worships at the altar of Oasis, here’s a song called Live Forever! So how come it sounds like a Cantopop number? Maybe its the cheesy string synth and the overall over-dramatic presentation. Whatever, Flybar tries very hard to make Live Forever the fist-punching anthem every stadium rocker aspires for and I’m not quite sure they succeed but I guess the ambition is paramount eh?

Exciting times for the Singapore music scene and Flybar has definitely put their own distinct mark on it with Scream Without Raising Your Voice. 

*Contemporary Christian Music

FLYBAR CD LAUNCH

Singapore band Flybar launch their debut album – Scream Without Raising Your Voice – this Friday at 7.30pm at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets are $5 a pop and available from Flybar’s website

Album review to come.

PLAINSUNSET ALBUM LAUNCH

Now you may have read me complaining before about how inappropriate Zouk is as a venue for a rock show. And last night’s launch of Plainsunset’s instant classic of a new album was no different, sad to report. Despite all that, Plainsunset really did put on a ROCK SHOW! 

After 12 years together as a band, Plainsunset knows what it takes to entertain their devoted fan base. With Jon’s affable stage presence, flanked by Sham and Nizam’s kinetic energy and of course propelled by the indefatigable Ronny, who pummels the drum set so effortlessly – the powerful modern tuneful pop-punk that radiates from the quartet can get quite irresistible. The new songs were received with enthusiasm – Johari Window, Interference, River Song and Children – all lapped up by their adoring fans. 

But… almost by cue, once the band launched into an extended selection of their earlier old-school punk material, the body-surfing began in earnest! This is what the fans were waiting for and Zouk was converted into a Singapore indie mosh pit – a sight to behold! 

Even as the band closed out its encore with their signature song – Plainsunset – the buzz in the packed crowd was palpable as all agreed that they had witnessed a monumental gig – despite the technical sound glitches along the way – the strong stench of sweaty bodies permeated the club as the throng made its way outdoors. A magical night – made all the more enjoyable by great company – Mike, Song, Fir, Audie, Josh, Jon, Iain and so on. Thanks also to the WakeMeUp guys viz, Esmond, John, Jon, Sameer for making it possible for Power of Pop to be a part of Singapore music history in the making…

Pix by Fir.

MY ONE & ONLY

I’m proud to say that I get quite a few requests for an MP3 file of My One & Only. So, to satisfy the demand, I’m making the file available for 7 days or 100 downloads whichever comes earlier. (Yeah, it’s at yousendit.com). Click on the link below, enjoy and please let me have your comments. If this service is popular, I might do it for my out-of-print songs. Let me know, boys and girls.

My One & Only (from Democracy)

… still there’s more … 

PEEPSHOW

PEEPSHOW EP (Self-released)

Expect a shedload of EPs coming from young and aspiring Singapore bands in the months to come. Peepshow’s EP is up first. This is an earnest band that like many local bands wear their influences proudly on their collective sleeves. For Zaki, SK, Mikail, Yuk and Edmund, the primary musical inspiration is British pop and rock and as an obsessed Anglophile meself, that in itself is a damn good start! Here’s the blow by blow account.

I Know

A great opener with crunching guitars and synth undertones basically covering two chords. Very reminiscent of the Britpop era of the mid-90s, with a slight inflection of the post-punk legacies of New Order/Joy Division. In that way, I Know sounds a little like a Great Spy Experiment song. Which is a good thing, believe me. I like how Zaki deftly wraps his larynx around the catchy melody. A hit!

Why

This track begins very promisingly with echoes of the Verve and Oasis evident. But somehow, when the chorus kicks in, something goes terribly wrong and the song falls flat. A pity because the song itself has loads of potential but maybe lack of experience and guidance somewhat lets the band down. Zaki tries his best though…

Funky Song

Hahaha. This is a bit of a risky proposition but Peepshow pulls it off. So it comes across as serious and funny at the same time. Zaki’s camp delivery completes the illusion or picture (depending on your point of view) and the voiceover is hilarious. The instrumentation is spot on. A fine evocation of late 80s Brit-funk. 

Come Back to Me

Ah, twee pop with balls! Zaki is amazingly cool with his vocals – very original – he puts on a slight Brit affectation but with clear Singaporean overtones. Well done. Yet another radio-friendly tune that deserves attention for the way it subverts what we think of Singapore music. Colloquial yet western – a fine balance that works!

Special Someone

This one reminds me of Felt a whole lot (the guitar parts), which isn’t bad of course. At first listen, the laid-back vibe may be a little off-putting but the track gets stronger the longer it plays. It could benefit from a stronger hook though. Still, the fretwork has got me bopping in approval.

Overall, I would recommend that every Singapore music fan get hold of this EP as I believe that Peepshow has edged itself into contention as a local outfit to keep an eye out for. 

ROCK THE SUB

12 bands. 2 venues. 8 hours. Something’s gotta give, eh?

I’m pretty honored to be playing alongside 11 other great bands. If I wasn’t performing with the Groovy People, I’d still wouldn’t miss this event for the world. Don’t wanna single out any particular band cos the line-up is simply awesome. 

But… of course, we will be on the Timbre stage at 9.30 p.m. and with six of us jostling for space, it’s gonna be interesting especially as it’s gonna be a primarily Cosmic American Music set come this Saturday. Expect also some interesting and surprising covers. As usual, I hope to see you there and please do come up and say hi!

… and there’s more …