JOY DIVISION (Genius Products) Written by Jon Savage/Directed by Grant Gee

The perfect companion piece to Control (the Ian Curtis biopic), this documentary on Joy Division outlines the story behind this influential band by interviews with Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, the late Tony Wilson and others who were involved one way or another.

Writer Savage attempts to connect the rise of the band with fate of Manchester but methinks he’s overstating the case somewhat. Whilst I agree that Joy Division has almost thirty years after Curtis’ suicide proven themselves to be a hugely important inspiration to many modern groups, I do not believe that they have had much impact on Manchester society as a whole. 

And such a connection need not be made merely to justify Joy Division’s importance in the musical scheme of things. The documentary does a great job in detailing the rise of the band and the various parties integral to its success. It avoids the temptation to idolize Curtis and recognizes that whilst his contribution was key, he was but one-fourth of an awesome group. That the survivors were able to carry on with enormous success as New Order is a testimony to talents of Sumner, Hook and Morris – even without Curtis. 

Highly recommended to all followers of modern pop-rock music.



Todd is back and how!?! And Todd has decided to make his latest release an old-school guitar rock album. And he means it!

Not one for empty boasts, Todd has certainly delivered on his promise with thirteen songs that hearken back to his 70s heyday. Meaning that it is a refreshing mixup of raucous rockers and Philly soul-revved pop songs performed and produced with the obligatory Runt precision. 

Part two of a recent comeback which included 2004’s electronica outing, Liars, Arena is the return to form, diehard Todd fans have been praying hard for. 

Thus, standouts like Courage and Weakness, manage to combine metal riffs with soulful choruses. Bluesy tracks like Gun and Pissin reveal that he hasn’t lost his keen wit and insight. But its on the straight ahead pop-rockers like the sleek Afraid, the prog-metallic Mercenary, the shimmering Today and the manic Mountaintop that its clear that Todd is positively reveling in revisiting the sounds of the past. 

As the campy cover suggests, Todd is jumping into the fray with guitar and cymbal as his choice of weapons and all we can do is to surrender and be entertained.

Arena is released in the UK and Europe on Cooking Vinyl on Monday September 29th and in North America by Hi-Fi Recordings on Tuesday September 30th.

In the meantime, check out Todd’s Myspace page.


DRESSY BESSY Holler and Stomp (Transdreamer)

It seems strange to say that Dressy Bessy are a bit of an acquired taste when you consider that they deliver bouncy repetitive, infectious songs. I guess the “problem” is that the band elects to write hooks borne out of instrumental riffs and pleasing rhythms. The melodies tend to be leaning towards the atonal with singer Tammy Ealom performing a dead-pan vocal style which can be disconcerting at times. 

That said, this new album – their 4th – bears enough promise to persevere beyond the band’s somewhat idiosyncratic format. Fans of the B-52s’ awkward phrasing and the Go-Go’s informed energy will be rewarded by the effort.


PRETENDERS Loose In LA (Eagle Vision)

Unlike in the 70s, live albums are far and between in the modern age with Wilco’s Kicking Television the only high profile release in recent times. Live DVDs have filled in the gap somewhat and so the absence of live albums has not been an issue really.

This 2003 release documented Pretenders’ gig at the Wiltern Theatre and finds Chrissie Hynde and company in typical rollicking form. Hynde has joked about Pretenders being a tribute band and the majority of the tracks here are understandably the recognizable ones as classics like Brass Pocket, Kid, Message of Love, Talk of the Town, Back on the Chain Gang, Middle of the Road and Don’t Get Me Wrong are trotted out together with a smattering of new tracks from latest album, Loose Screw. 

With Hynde looking and sounding as good as she did in the late 70s, Loose in LA is an enjoyable live DVD and reminds all and sundry what a great rock performer Hynde is. Five years on and the news is that a new Pretenders album (with a new line up) will be released soon by Shangri-la Records. Review to come…


Concluding my PoP Ten Beach Boys songs.

8. When I Grow Up To Be A Man (Single, 1964)

Yes, Brian’s favorite topic – growing up – is totally realized on this superb track. From the groovy harpsicord, the backing vocals counting up, Brian’s falsetto, even Mike Love’s deadpan lead, this ranks as one of my classic Beach Boys sing-a-longs. “14, 15, 16, 17…”

(A stereo version from the “Thirty Years of the Beach Boys boxset.)

9. Don’t Worry, Baby (Single, 1964)

Brian claims he wrote this based on Be My Baby, the Phil Spector classic but believe me, this awesome track trounces the inspiration. Gorgeous melody, mind-blowing lead vocals by Brian (how he hit those notes is anyone’s guess) and heartfelt, tear-jerker lyrics. What more could you ask for?

10. I Just Wasn’t Made For This Times (from Pet Sounds, 1966)

Probably one of Brian’s most personal songs, as he confessed – “It’s about a guy who was crying out because he thought he was too advanced, and that he’d eventually have to leave people behind. All my friends thought I was crazy to do Pet Sounds.” And man, do I identify with this song. The melancholy is palpable and the use of the theremin at the end is sheer genius. Excuse me, whilst I dry my eyes…

Well, that wraps it up. I hope this whets your appetite for the Beach Boys. Start with Pet Sounds and then move backwards and if you need more, move forward. Heh. 

This was a lot of fun and I intend to do similar pieces for my other favorite artists and bands. Stay tuned.

… still there’s more …


LEESON Some Girls

New S-ROCK single to savour over at Leeson’s Myspace. Starts out a little tentatively but packs a punch as the band leads up to the chorus. The usual Britpop jauntiness is evident and a strong sing-a-long chorus hook will leave you humming. Download it now for free.

“Round and round and round and round”


It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Ben Harrison play and I must say that this performance was one of my favorites. Especially the second set which included a string of hits viz. Astrogal, Handphones on the Dancefloor, Ex’s Cassettes, Love is No Alibi, Stupid Supermarket, Superhero etc, which the enthusiastic crowd at the Prince of Wales simply lapped up.

Maybe it was partially due to the presence of erstwhile bassist Vinita Ramani. Also significant was the debut of Harvey Chamberlain on skins who admirably kept up with Ben’s frenetic pacing. Witty psych-rock at its sweaty best. Also liked the new (to me, anyway) Malaysian Trucks from the first set. As usual, Ben maintained rapt attention with his banter and antics (the Bowie sequence was something else – oh, you had to be there!). All in all, it was a show that buzzed all night long…

Listen to Etc here.

… and there’s more …


There you have it. Sometimes justice is served. When King Kong Jane first told me that they were entering Powerjam 08, I believed that they would have a good chance to win. When I watched them during the prelims, this belief grew stronger. And during the finals, I was positively convinced that they would win. Feels so good to be right!

This year’s final was in stark contrast to last years when the majority of the bands were deep into rock posing. This time around, the focus was on funk as Madhatter, Soul Access and Aurigami did their best to put on the groove. Maybe they sounded too similar to the judges and never got into the top two placings. 

Surprise runners-up was Page, fronted by Bani Hidir (B-Quartet) sporting a mohawk and plying playful grunge powerpop (ala Foo Fighters) which resonated with the judges. Unconventional certainly, but it worked! 

But the night belonged to King Kong Jane, who were visibly nervous during Lollipop, which was delivered way too fast but the band settled down with their cover of Umbrella which I think sealed the deal for them. 

A good night of Singapore music included guest bands Ivy’s Vendetta, Jack and Rai, West Grand, Plainsunset and Electrico. 

Congrats again to King Kong Jane.

… still there’s more …