Six years in the making, the sophomore effort of The Great Spy Experiment arrives with the band a completely different entity to what it was when I first met Saiful, Fandy, Song, Khai and Mag in the rehearsals for Singapore Day in 2007. Interim period has seen marriages, children and daily challenges with the ubiquitous work-life balance. Factor in the creative musical need of recording artists and things no doubt become complicated.
It’s hard to be totally objective about GSE. For me, the band represented all that was fresh and exciting about the Singapore music scene all those years ago when I’d determined to play a part in the scene’s development and there have been too many defining moments at GSE gigs to bother even recounting. But I will say this – if you are a fan of the band and its excellent debut – Flower Show Riots – then Litmus is absolutely essential. If you have never heard of GSE till now, then think of the combo of the two albums as the long delayed ultimate introduction to a Singaporean reflection of early Noughties alt-rock – The Strokes, The Killers, Bloc Party and The Arctic Monkeys – technical proficiency with a big romantic heart.
To all intents and purposes, Litmus is the older, more sophisticated brother of Flower Show Riots - as GSE takes all the attributes that made it so special to begin with (viz. memorable melodies, dance rhythms, new wave synths and muscular guitars) and amped them to maximum impact. Litmus becomes the GSE fan’s dream musical buffet and a feast that one will never grow tired of.
So yes, the album is definitely worth the wait. “Into the Sun” pulls the heart strings with a emotive chorus, “Wasted” boasts a killer keyboard hook, “The Lights” is (true to its name) incandescent with its Numanoid synth riff and Khai’s magnificent basslines, “Crystal” is an agressive number that will send chills down spine, the title track sparks to life with a highly conventional pop construction and the closing “Helsinki” is a wonderful exercise in epic minimalism. The rest of Litmus contains as many highs as set out here and is definitely an album one needs to listen to from start to finish to appreciate its scope.
Litmus is available from February 18th. Official Site