DANNY ECHO Danny Echo (Self-released)

So Coldplay are intently setting their sights on producing The Unforgettable Fire 2.0, Radiohead are giving away their albums for free and U2 are releasing singles that speak of submarines and gasoline (but not wars between nations!) What does this bode for rock and roll, 2009? Most would point towards the Kings of Leon or Oasis, leading purveyors of amped-up electric rock. But hold your horses yet, because bursting out from Vancouver is five-man outfit Danny Echo, and they are poised to take over the world.

Okay, fine, so world domination might not be so likely at this point, but even a cursory listen to Danny Echo’s self-titled album is going to tell you that this is a band with no hint of indie pretensions or alternative ambitions. No sir, this is music made by men gunning for top 40 airplay.  Their influences betray as much: Rolling Stones, The Beatles, U2…all bands who make liars out of everyone who have ever proclaimed their intention not to be big. And as if afraid we might not be getting the point, every single column on their Facebook Personal Information page is insistently filled in with “ROCK & ROLL”. Gee, are they subtle or what?

Their lack of pretension is almost refreshing however. In an era where most rock bands seem intent on denouncing the sorry state of the world and moaning about their desire to slit their wrists, Danny Echo are a breath of fresh air in their single-minded intent to have a good time. The band kicks things off with some U2 referencing on album opener Out Of Style, with soft atmospherics that give way to unabashed gleeful riffing over subtle, soaring sweeping synthesizers. (Hurray for alliteration!)  Killing Me is an inspired, thoroughly enjoyable track with its lifted choruses and supremely headbangable riffs, topped off with a wildly sexy snarl. It’s a combination of John Lennon and Pete Townsend updated for the 21st century, and it works.  On Tomorrow Today, lead singer Danny sounds thoroughly like the bloke from Oasis who sings with his hands behind his back, although the nifty Britpop touches on the track are much more derivative of Blur. The band take a detour into Americana territory on Help Yourself, which is at times reminiscent of Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, before winding things down on a singalong number, Natural Disaster, a song that brings to mind the Rolling Stones’ 1968 effort, Beggars Banquet.

It’s a testimony to a band’s pop sensibilities when one’s first instinct upon finishing a record is to replay it. It’s an even bigger testimony to their talent when they manage to produce an album that pays off successfully both as a collection of songs and as a whole. In a day and age when most artists are paying more attention to the digital single instead, Danny Echo must be commended for producing a record as consistent and as wholly enjoyable as this one. Wonderfully addictive and thoroughly enjoyable, this is all that powerpop rock n’ roll is meant to be. Highly recommended.

(Samuel C Wee)



I’m sure that some of us here can at times identify with Rebecca Bloomwood the protagonist of the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic which is based on a series of Shopaholic novels by author Sophie Kinsella.

Unlike the protagonist, I hope that most of us don’t rack up thousand of credit cards bills, spin tales to wriggle our way out from debt collectors, disappoint a supporting best friend, see mannequins move and hear them urging you to buy, buy and buy, whilst at the same time ironically finding success as a business reporter who writes articles from a sense of fashion, and finally snagging a hot editor boss.

Isla Fisher aka the future Mrs Borat is fun to watch as the shopping-crazed Bloomwood, imbuing the vivacity and kookiness which Reese Witherspoon did so well in Legally Blonde.     The supporting cast sees acting pedigrees such as Kristin Scott Thomas in a turn as a fashion editor who spews French accented English, John Goodman and Joan Cusack as Bloomwood’s tender and supportive parents.  Hugh Dancy as the love interest is confident, hot and suave in his role.

The plot is nothing new.  The protagonist has a problem but still has the faithful support of a good friend, lies to her handsome squeeze and finds redemption in the end – but to the many people in reality who are stuck in an economic rut, how can we find redemption?

Yet, Confessions is fun and hilarious to watch.  There were many laughs in the cinema throughout the film.  Yet in the era of a credit crunch and economic crisis, it would be dangerous to fall into this fantasy and fallacy that everything could be bought on credit and debt isn’t as bad as it seems.  This movie makes a great 100 odd minutes escape into the world of glamour and fashion but it may seem insensitive a film to those affected by the economic crisis and credit crunch.

(Darren Boon)




We (Rachael Teo and I) posed some questions to Rachael Yamagata and we are so pleased that she took time off from her busy schedule to grace us with her thoughts. Thanks, Rachael!

What is your favorite aspect of being a singer-songwriter-performer? What are the challenges you face?

I love the songwriting part the most I think.  I’ve never found a better ‘language’ to express my emotions than through a song.  Something about a chord progression and just right lyric, with the subtleties of delivery and melody – I can say layers of things that I can never quite get right in conversation or prose.  The performing aspect is my challenge.  I definitely have a love/ hate relationship with it.  I’m normally a very reserved person and quite shy.  All of that changes on stage when fronting a band and I really have to will myself to step up to the plate.

What is the one song you’ve written that means the most to you and why.

Hmmm.. I think ‘Little Life’ is certainly a song that I really needed to write.  It honors someone that I was very close to and has since passed away.  I think there were potentially a lot of judgements surrounding their life and death and this was my way of remembering them as well as defending them.

What is your songwriting process? Do you write complete songs before recording them or do you write songs in the studio? What inspires your writing?

I’m my best around four in the morning, totally alone, able to chain smoke and work by candlelight.  Environment becomes important to me, although a luxury.  It’s very difficult for me to write on the road.  Usually, I’m a lyric/melody/music all at once writer – sometimes they come in 5 min. and sometimes a few hours.  On occasion I’ve had a phrase stuck in my head that I’ll use months later (‘Horizon’), and ‘Elephants’ was a 10 min lyric channeling experience that took 6 months before I figured out the music for it.  I’m really interested in production so for this past record I demoed every song complete with drums, bass, guitar, strings, horn lines, effects  etc.. all before going into the studio.  As for the inspiration part, I’m fascinated by our frailties and strengths and all the internal conflicts we have within and with others.  I learn a lot of lessons through my romantic relationships of course, but on a broader scope I really believe we can all connect more fully with each other.

Damien Rice has a song called “Elephants” as well. What is it about this animal that is so intriguing?  Why did you pick it as the song title instead of the other animals you mentioned in the song, like tigers and vultures etc?

haha.. Hawks, not vultures…That’s a bit to creepy for me.  Yeah, when I heard Damien had that song I was like, ‘Shist!’  My record was in limbo, but I’d had my ‘Elephants’ before his record came out and had no way to release it. Alas.  I love his song and ours are quite different so all is alright.  I was drawn to elephants really because it was a symbolic of a past relationship.  This person and I noted the fact that elephants never forget and have this incredible memory and applied it to ourselves and our time together.  After I wrote the song, I started to notice all these articles come out about them speaking of their newfound aggression toward humans, unexplained and unprovoked attacks etc.  They spoke of their social behavior and how they travel as a pack for life and I think are one of the only animals who have an intense mourning process when one of them dies.  The attacks were happening because the young elephants were witnessing so much slaughter and basically getting traumatized in these new ways and not learning how to adapt.  And yet, there were stories of elephants killing trainers etc and yet mourning them as if they were their own, not letting any other human near them.  They are incredibly complex and have such strength and yet such vulnerability.  All of those things fascinated me and the song really parallels this instinctive reaction to being hurt and the damage it might do, on animal and human levels.  They seemed right for the title.

Besides love and relationships, are there any other themes that you hope to explore further in the near future?

I do all the time, the songs just aren’t as good.  I’ve written political songs, songs about my cats, songs about bands – I even wrote a ‘porn song’ with totally x rated lyrics just because I wanted to write something, but didn’t have any ideas at the time.  When I nail something on the head that isn’t about relationships – I’ll certainly get it out there.

Do you have any advice for aspiring singer-songwriters balancing between music and a day job/studies?

Hahah!  I’ve never gotten that question before and man I could talk for hours about it.  I remember being a waitress, full time college student and in a band all at once and man, it was not easy.  Three shows a week with rehearsals starting sometime at 11 at night.  Class in the morning.  We did a whole record and couldn’t afford the daylight studio hours so recorded from midnight to 8 am and had to eat hot peppers just to stay awake.  Especially when you are starting out you need some sort of way to make money to have rent so find a job with some flexibility.  It may suck, but if it lets you take off here and there for shows – it’s important.  The restaurant industry is hellish, but by the end we had the whole staff come out to our shows and they were really pulling for us.  Education is important because it will inspire your songs, so in terms of advice…?  Get ready to do it all.  You need drive and dedication and discipline.  Make goals for shows, catalog and record your songs so you can find them again, play out play out play out and build your following.  Eat, sleep and breathe the music part and if it really is your passion – you will find a way.

Besides music, what are the some of the other things in life that you enjoy?

Decorating. Cleaning (calms me down). The show ‘Lost’ – I’m obsessed.  Traveling. Languages. Reading. Nature…

What is the one motto you live by and what anchors you as a person?

There is a lesson in everything and where I am in this moment is exactly where I’m meant to be.  My mother has always been my true north.

You’ve been to Singapore in 2007. What was your experience like and what can your fans expect from your upcoming gig?

Experience was very lovely.  I remember a stellar audience that I was so excited about.  We’d never been and I couldn’t believe so many people were there. We didn’t get to sightsee very much, but I remember beautiful flowers and sweet folk.  For the gig this time round we’re bringing a full band as well as a cellist which I think will really be excellent.  The strings add so much to our sound and I’m really excited about the line up of musicians.  It will be a very dynamic and exciting set.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans in Singapore?

I can’t wait to see you again and thank you soooooo much!!! Xoxoxo

Thanks also to Evelyn, Tat Wee and Sammy of Warners Singapore.

Rachael Yamagata performs at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 15th April. Tickets available at SISTIC.



When I was asked to review Coldplay, it was an amazing feeling. ‘I was there! I would know’, I thought to myself. After that, it dawned on me that it’ll be difficult to sum up a concert like Coldplay in a review. But so kindly given the opportunity to, I shall try.

I came when the opening band, Mercury Rev, were halfway through their set. There was something in the air that made me think that not a lot of people cared or knew who Mercury Rev were. I would think any band opening for Coldplay would be under tremendous pressure to put up a good show. I was not impressed with Mercury Rev, probably because I was too excited about Coldplay.

Coldplay played a mix of old and new songs, and the transitions between the songs were flawless. I enjoyed the other 3 albums, but I still have mixed feelings about Viva La Vida. I felt that the the set list had a nice flow to it with the mix of old songs and newer ones, although I felt that the differences in the musical direction between the older and newer albums were very distinct.

I’m a sucker for openings, and Coldplay opened with Life In Technicolour/Violet Hill. They played Life In Technicolour behind a translucent black veil, which would have been pretty cool to watch, except I was seated at the rear of the stage so I could see them performing, unveiled. After watching videos of the opening songs on Facebook/YouTube (you could probably get tons online), I realised that it would have been a treat watching them perform through the veil. The lighting behind the veil made it such that you could often see two shadows of Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion, which would have been very nice.

After playing Life in Technicolour, the stadium went pitch dark, the veil fell and the stage was slowly illuminated while they played Violet Hill. I think about it and it still sends chills down my spine!

Clocks was next, and it was incredible, with a mix of red, yellow and white laser lights. By then, people all around me were dancing and singing along to Clocks. I was amazed at how much energy everyone had, and how the age gaps were quite large. There were a mix of people in office attire and those wearing casual attire.

It was amazing when they played Yellow, because all the lights were yellow and people from the exits brought it yellow balloons and people in the middle of the stadium could bounce them up and down. There were at least 50 of such balloons, and as the song progressed, they were popped by people, and confetti came out. It was an audio and visual treat for me, because I LOVE going for concerts/gigs that fuse the two together.

Towards the middle of the concert, Coldplay walked into the audience and played a few songs, which included I’m a Believer (The Monkees Cover) and Death Will Never Conquer, where Will Champion did vocals for the song. He sounded good, and the audience cheered him on and sang along!

My favourite part of the concert was when they played Lovers In Tokyo. Confetti fell from the ceiling into the audience and the coloured lights changed throughout the song. I loved it when Chris Martin twirled the Japanese umbrella while walked down the ramp as more confetti fell from the ceiling. I could just imagine him walking through Sakura trees somewhere in Japan!

Coldplay was an audio/visual treat for me. I enjoyed the fusion of music, videos and photographs, which were shown on the screen behind the stage and on balls above the audience. There was the use of different images to portray the moods for different songs, Lovers In Tokyo had images of Japan, and some of the other songs had videos of the performance on the balls above the audience. I felt that it added to the warm ambiance and setting of the concert.

The thing that made Coldplay special for me was how everyone in the audience was able to connect with the songs that were performed. The whole concert was well-put together and audience participation made a difference to the whole atmosphere throughout the night. People sang along, danced along, and even shouted “WHOOOOOOOA” from Viva La Vida as an encore instead of shouting the usual “Encore”. It was as if everyone present shared a special love for Coldplay, and I would rate this concert as one of the best ones I’ve been to so far. I still haven’t gotten over how spectacular the concert was!

(Rebecca Lincoln)

Here are 2 videos, Yellow and Lovers In Tokyo, from the Coldplay concert for your enjoyment.



TRENTALANGE awakening, level one (Coco Tauro)

Here’s the components of an exciting recipe/formula –

1. A singer that recalls the dark, sultry tones of PJ Harvey & Annie Lennox.

2. A multi-instrumentalist that plays piano, wurlitzer, moog, bass, flute, theramin, percussion, guitar, tibetan singing bowls.

3. A songwriter/arranger/producer that is able to combine influences of Blondie, Black Sabbath, Massive Attack & Nick Cave.

The result? Barbara Trentalange.

With this accomplished sophomore effort, Trentalange confirmed the promise of her debut with an assured control & mastery over  myriad styles and approaches, which keeps the listener intrigued and interested. Always.

The best part? Eclecticism, of course. My favorite attribute.

From the spaced-out Tex-Mex flavor of the Fever to the distorted & sinister growl of Heavy Metal Astroman, from the soulful inflections of Valentine to the torch-poppy confection of Racing with Nowhere to Go, Trentalange keeps one guessing and impressed with her sheer versatile grasp of rock’s dynamics in all its twisted glory.

By the time one gets to the atmospheric, shuffling final track – Awakening, Level One – this writer is convinced that Barbara Trentalange is a talent to note and that this album is one to consider at the end of 2009, for one of the albums of the year. Magikal.



After an interesting five-odd hours listening to sixteen Singapore bands in the surreal atmosphere (rock music ringing out before calm waters, not to mention the imposing concrete skyline) of the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, the judges (viz. Daniel Sassoon, Amanda Ling, Jon Chan and yours truly) retreated to the Esplanade offices to debate the identities of the final eight bands who would grace the Baybeats Festival in late August this year.

To be honest, most of the choices were easy to make, based on the assured performances over the entire course of the auditions. There were some difficult decisions to make but I believe that overall, we made the right ones. For me personally, this experience has been an enriching one as it certainly expanded my own appreciation of the S-ROCK palette. There are certainly many talented bands/musicians out there on our little red dot. Spending the time with my fellow judges as well as the Baybeat folks (i.e. Junmin and Keith) definitely made it a very fun time.

And so… stay tuned for the results. To the bands who did not make the cut, don’t be discouraged, continue to work hard on your music and keep on keeping on. Make use of every opportunity to hone your craft and continue to learn and improve.

…still there’s more…



KAISER CHIEFS “Off With Their Heads” (B-Unique/Polydor/Universal)

If there was any justice in this world (HAH!), then Kaiser Chiefs would give the bulk of their royalties to Andy Partridge and XTC. Fact of the matter, of course, is that probably Kaiser Chiefs’ source of inpiration is equal parts post-punk and Britpop circa ’95.  Still, I guess a XTC-Blur fixation is definitely more palatable (to these ears) than the endless Joy Division-referencing that modern rock bands shamelessly indulge in nowadays.

Certainly, notwithstanding the derivative nature of the music, I rather enjoy the edgy, melodic quality of the songs on “Off With Their Heads”. I mean since XTC  is no longer recording anymore, it’s rather fun to bop and sing-along to fiesty gems like the campy Spanish Metal, the strident Like It Too Much, the frenetic Can’t Say What I Mean, the quirky Tomato in the Rain and so on.

So more power to bands like Kaiser Chiefs and hopefully, their continuing success will inspire more like-minded melodic pop making!

Kaiser Chiefs perform in Singapore at the Fort Canning Park on 7th April. Tickets available at SISTIC.



For the second day of Weekend TRIP NOISE Edition, I managed to catch Nick Tan for the first time. Having caught him on an episode of Live n Loaded on TV, it was a treat to catch him perform live. He looked more relaxed than he did on Live n Loaded.

The first thing that struck me was how matured his vocals sounded. He looked laid-back and casual, but his vocals opposed the first impression I had of him. His lyrics were well-written and he managed to inject emotions throughout the set.

I felt that his songs would have been better if he added another dimension to his songs to make them more memorable. He put up a fantastic performance, and getting Rachael to perform the last song with him was a treat I enjoyed.

Rachael Teo was next, and I hadn’t heard much about her so I wasn’t sure what to expect. She brought a friend along (Su Yin) to perform with her on the guitars and violin. Despite finding that some of her songs sounded familiar, I felt that her strong vocals and lyrics set her apart from other singer/songwriters.

She added a nice touch to her set when her friend played the violin while she sang and played the guitar for one of her songs. I felt that the violin complemented the song and added dimension to it. I enjoyed her set and I would definitely look forward to hearing more from her in future.

After dinner, I came back to catch the set by Duxton Plains, which I enjoyed. I hadn’t heard them perform before, so it was a memorable set. The lead vocalist talked about how he came to be in the band and I liked how he connected with the audience. They put a smile on my face throughout the set, despite being annoyed by the people who were inconsiderately smoking under the tent. After their set, I went off and came back just in time for Caracal’s set.

Having caught Caracal at the School Invasion Tour Finale late last year, it was a treat to watch them perform again. There’s something about Caracal I really like that I can’t quite put a finger on. Their songs are so well put together, the instruments so precise and it seems as if everything was well-thought of and intentional. Their songs are a balance of technicality, precision and punch.

Caracal got the crowds rocking out with them, especially when they performed In Regards to Myself by Underoath with guest vocals by Matt from A Vacant Affair. I felt that it was very well performed, and that Caracal outdid themselves during that song. Matt’s vocals contributed to the fact that that song left the the crowds in a heady state that didn’t end until the end of the night.

After Caracal’s high energy set, Bittersweet (KL) took to the stage and with their catchy tunes that were a hit with the rest of the audience who stayed behind to catch them. Some of the friends I was with were happily dancing along and having a great time. Their performance was a great way to end the event because they gave it their best and it was evident in how they managed to work the crowds and get people in the audience to respond to them.

Towards the end of the night, I happened to walk in while Indus Gendi was playing their last song. I liked the song they sang, and I really liked the vocalist. She sounded incredible, and the band complemented her perfectly. I look forward to hearing more from them.

Once again, kudos to the excellent sound engineers and the hardworking team at *scape and Wake Me Up Music for an excellent final day of the NOISE Edition of Weekend TRIP.

(Rebecca Lincoln)


“Hi, I’m Rebecca, and I’m insane”

So much for introductions! My passion for music came from my father. My grandfather used to have a large vinyl collection, which my dad would play for us while my brother and I were growing up. I believe that my love for music came from countless hours of sitting at home, reading while listening to Julie London, Miles Davis and a lot of other Jazz musicians growing up.

To me, there’s something instantaneous about music. It has the power to invoke emotions and speak directly to the soul, unlike art and design, where you have to mull about it in order to get a deeper perspective. I love going for concerts and gigs, especially when the bands that perform are able to connect with their audiences and the audience in return is able to reciprocate.

I’m passionate about graphic design, music and photography. I find that all 3 mediums have the ability to stir emotions and break boundaries that have been set. My ideal concert/gig would have a fusion of art, music and design, which would speak to individuals on multiple levels.

Chances are, if I’m not out reviewing shows, I would be at home with a book playing The Beatles and sipping on Ribena, at the beach or out exploring Singapore with my camera.

So please welcome Rebecca as the latest addition to the PoP roster!



Weekend TRIP NOISE Edition at the Confessions stage kicked of with For This Cycle, a 16-year old singer/songwriter. By the time his set started, *scape lab was packed with people, mostly students and probably some of his friends.

His songs were catchy, but after awhile, they started to sound similar. It was also easy to spot who his musical influences were from his 30-minute set. He was also nervous throughout the performance, which he made known to the audience.

Although I think he’s talented, I felt that he should have taken the time to explored more and make the music his own. I also felt that he wasn’t tactful enough when talking to the audience, and he should work on that in order to deliver a better performance in future.

Overall, I enjoyed the set. Weiwen (For This Cycle) is talented, he just needs to brush up a bit so that it’ll take him further on his musical journey. He’s a musician I’ll keep a lookout for.

The Karl Maka was up next, and their songs were something fresh. I hadn’t heard that much about them, and I definitely think I missed out. They were catchy and their tunes, dance-worthy. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a crowd, and despite encouraging the audience to dance along, there wasn’t much audience participation either. At the last song, the vocalist got off stage and danced in the audience, which I thought was impressive.

I, for one, had my head bopping and my feet tapping throughout their set. There were a few others enjoying the set, and it was a memorable one for me.

After the set, I was amused as the Jon Chan/Kevin Mathews band set up. At one point in time, Iain was playing the drums with plastic bottles for sticks! My ears pricked up when I heard Jon Chan playing parts of Message in a Bottle by The Police. I excitedly tapped my friend furiously on the shoulder and exclaimed that in excitement.

By the time 10pm arrived, there was a sizable crowd. Most of the teenagers who had came for For This Cycle had left, and had been replaced by an older crowd. The Jon Chan/Kevin Mathews band far exceeded my expectations. I caught them for the first time at the Media Fiesta on March 8, and I thought they were brilliant then. They kicked off the set with a song by U2, which was a hit with the audience, including me. Jon and Kevin played their own songs, as well as a new track, The Secret. The duo managed to inject something different into the different songs they played, making each song something unique. They ended on a high note, with Message in a Bottle. I left with a new-found respect for Kevin Mathews, who sang Sting’s parts with such gusto. Sting is an very respected musician, and I felt that it took courage to sing it with such gusto the way Kevin did.

The last song got some of the audience bopping along, and I even saw a handful of people grooving to the music. It still amazes me how congruent everything sounded after three jam sessions and a performance. I left with a spring in my step and Message in a Bottle playing in my head, looking forward to the buffet of musician performances the next day.

Before I left, I managed to catch a few song by Sandwich (Philippines) at the Main stage. The vocalist had charisma and immense stage presence. The atmosphere was exhilirating, and there were people dancing around and shouting to the lyrics. The band put up a stellar performance, and it’s no wonder that they’re so big in the Philippines.

(Rebecca Lincoln)



Before I start being swamped by accusations of gross misrepresentation and inaccuracy, let me qualify my review by saying that entering the studio late and watching the performance from the side of a stage is not exactly ideal for a review. That said, props still go out to those friends of mine who took invaluable time out to offer me their opinions of the various acts that went on stage on Tuesday.

The Fire Fight started things off with a solid performance of Fires At Night before launching into their song with Joakim Gomez, All These People (Call This Love). On his part, Joakim sounded better than he did in my memory, even though he looked a tad out of place on the crowded stage. Unfortunately, Leeson were a tad disappointing when their turn came around and delivered a rather underwhelming performance of Some Girls. To be fair though, that probably had more to do with the constant sound problems throughout their set than with the band itself. After taking to the stage a second time to redo Some Girls, they sounded considerably better, although Michael was still a tad too restrained for my taste.


I rather enjoyed the Industry Pick of the week, Quantum Revival. I must say that I wasn’t exactly the most avid fan of Live The Dream so I was pleasantly surprised when they managed to pull off Amy Winehouse’s Rehab with aplomb. Dawn Ho was another pleasant surprise with her charmingly seductive version of Barracuda, and had the crowd eating out her hand. (Although whispers of, “is this the same song as the one that Wicked Aura Batucada did?” were overhead.)


Sleeq, too, were refreshing in their grooving candor and lack of pretension. I might not be the most hip-hop person around, but I’ll take the soulful pipes of Syarif over wannabe rappers with faux-urban accents any day. Paul Twohill, on the other hand, left me undecided at the end of his set. Performing to a backing track is always going to be less compelling that with a live band, but even still, his performance felt rather by-the-numbers for me. I’ll stay away from the lip-synching rumors circulating around his performance, and instead take the word of the Mediacorp intern who told me it was only the backing vocals on the track that made it seemed so.

Still, Twohill did a better job than Paranoid Vision, who were disappointingly mediocre, to say the least..  They seemed to be a band that were only there to fulfill the producers’ weekly quota of painfully amateur performers, and would have been wholly unmemorable save for their conspicuously flat-ironed hair. I still haven’t quite figured out why they insist on putting up bands who nothing more than aggressively bash out I-V-vi-IV riffs in an out-of-time manner (albeit with perfect hair).


I’ll end by saying that if the producers are looking to up the rockout factor on the show, they should be looking more at the likes of Cardinal Avenue With a tight solid, and adrenaline pumping set, they managed to incite mass moshing that was actually on beat for once, and left everyone in the studio leaving on a high. For this reviewer, they were proof that for every amateur band in Singapore, there’s still a band capable of electrifying a crowd spectacularly. With two more episodes until the end of the season, one hopes that we’ll be seeing more of the latter and less of the former.

(Samuel C Wee)

Pix by Fir.



WHITE LIES To Lose My Life… (Fiction/Polydor/Universal)

The latest big thing to emerge from the British indie-pop scene is White Lies. Which according to typical NME hyperbole are the “grandiose archbishops of cathedral pop”! Whatever that means…

To these ears, White Lies are premier exponents of the art of the post-punk revival and it’s quite easy to spot the influences viz. the now-ubiquitous Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears, Teardrop Explodes and Depeche Mode. In fact, the music is so faithful to that (blessed) era that listening to the album left me feeling awfully nostalgic.

That said, it’s difficult to see any distinguishing qualities between White Lies and the multitude of Joy Division-referencing acts out there in the modern rock wilderness e.g. Interpol, the Killers, the Editors, Stellastarr ad nauseum. If anything, White Lies possesses a keener harmonic sensibility than most of its peers and the disco referencing title track even reminds me of early Duran Duran.

Bottom line? Fans of the both original and current post-punk eras will do well to pick up To Lose My Life…no hyperbole just simple recommendation. Now to dig up Unknown Pleasures, Songs from the Big Chair, Boy, the Crossing et al…



So far, we’ve had three jam sessions and just one performance (at the MDA Fiesta) but this little collaboration with Jon Chan that Esmond (WMUM) suggested has been working out fine for all concerned.

Today, at 10pm at the Scape Lab, we add three more songs to the 15 minute set we did at MDA Fiesta, which are basically another song by Jon (Security), a new song from me (The Secret) and a 70s cover that we’ve had loads of fun prancing around to.

I’m particularly enjoying this change of environment after about two years either playing solo acoustic or full band with the Groovy People. With Jon around, I can take a breather – a back seat if you will – and just be the rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist on his songs. Refreshing!

So hope to see as many of you guys as can make it tonight…please come up and say hello!

…yes, there’s more…



This Friday, 20th and Saturday, 21st will mark the debut of a brand new WeekendTRIP program for 2009. Now conceived as quarterly 2-day music festivals, former Baybeats organizer Wake Me Up Music has been roped in to co-produce these ambitious sonic events.


In March, the organizers in collaboration with Noise Singapore are rolling out the WeekendTRIP Noise Edition and this mini-festival has significance to me as it brings together two facets of my involvement in S-ROCK. As a musician, I will playing with Jon Chan under the WMUM banner on Friday at 10pm at the Scape Lab. As a mentor under the The Noise Apprenticeship Program, my two apprentices Nick Tan and Rachael Teo will also be performing on Saturday at 5.15pm and 6.00pm respectively at the Scape Lab as well.


This is all exciting news for S-ROCK lovers and as you can tell from the line-up below (which also includes regional acts), there is enough variety to satisfy every whim and taste. …and there’s more…

Friday, 20th March 2009
The ‘Main Stage’ @ *scapeYouth Park
The Confessions Stage @ *scape Lab
Plug & Play Stage @ OrchardCathay Cineleisure
700pm – 7.30pm
745pm – 815pm
8pm – 830pm
For This Cycle
830pm – 900pm
Blind Meets Mute (TBC)
9pm – 930pm
The Karl Maka
9.30pm – 1000pm
10pm – 1030pm
Jon Chan & Kevin Mathews
1030pm – 1115pm
Sandwich (Phillipines)
Saturday, 21st March 2009
The ‘Main Stage’ @ *scapeYouth Park
The Confessions Stage @ *scape Lab
Plug & Play Stage @ OrchardCathay Cineleisure
3pm – 4pm
Noise Workshop
‘Daniel Ong – How to present yourself on stage
430pm – 5pm
In Finite Flight (Acoustic Duo)
515pm – 545pm
Nick Tan (Acoustic)
6pm – 630pm
Rachael Teo (Acoustic)
630pm – 700pm
The Lion Story
6pm – 630pm
Azmyl Yunor (KL)
730pm – 800pm
Duxton Plains
7pm – 730pm
EN – X
830pm – 900pm
King Kong Jane
8pm – 830pm
Indus Gendi
930pm – 1015pm
9pm – 930pm
The Marilyns
1045pm – 1130pm
Bittersweet (KL)
*All Lineups subject to change without prior notice



HEY HEY MY MY A True Story EP (Sober and Gentle)

I came across this French duo by casually browsing through the recommended releases at Emusic and I was struck by their name (an obvious Neil Young tribute) and the opening folky gem of the title track. Not only that but I simply adored how the duo would sing in heavily French accents!

Keeping their music clean and melodic, the rest of this Ep finds Hey Hey My My easily recalliung the pristine Britpop of the Cure (California Wine), Belle and Sebastian (Whatever It Is & Perfect) and Teenage Fanclub (Your Eyes When We Kiss). All filtered through a Gallic Neil Young filter, of course!

It may all sound vaguely familiar but somehow Hey Hey My My makes these tried and tested formulas refreshing and strangely irresistible. Don’t analyse, just enjoy!



It’s less than a month away from Rachael Yamagata’s return to our shores (15th April) and I have to say that the one song that I’m looking forward to hearing Rachael play the most, is Sunday Afternoon, off her 2008 album, Elephants. Here’s a clip of a recent acoustic performance. Enjoy!

Tickets are available at SISTIC!



With lofty ambitions, the NUS Arts Festival presented Elementalism, a concert featuring four of the brightest lights of S-ROCK whereby each band would represent one element. Arty farty, eh? Ignoring the slightly pretentious aspirations of the organisers, there’s no denying the extremely good taste of selecting these four bands, all of which certainly meet the PoP stamp of approval!

Allura opened the show and proved to me once again why they are probably the most underrated band in Singapore. The way they go about mixing and mashing genres is thrilling to behold. Take for instance, new song Rain which had so many twists and turns that it was a wonder how the band managed to keep it all coherent. It’s heartening to note that band are not resting on their laurels and are working hard at the new stuff. I am certainly looking forward to new recordings.


Fire Fight poured heart and soul into delivering some familiar fan faves like Fires At Night, Train Song, Hours and Candala. New songs were also steadily eased into the set (The Dreamer) but probably it would take a few more listens to fully appreciate them. Still, Josh certainly exhausted himself to put up a show for the appreciative audience. With new album on the horizon, these are exciting times for followers of the Fire Fight.


Can I say just that Shirlyn Tan is hot?! Together with her band, the Unexpected, Shirlyn was decidedly more old school than the other bands on the agenda but with her muscular singing and the tight musical backing, the crowd were treated to a competent set of country, folk and rock numbers. Also, Shirlyn provided a cheeky moment with an unexpected cover of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Methinks I need to keep a closer eye on Shirlyn!


For some arcane reason, the sound system that served the earlier bands adequately completely fell apart when it was the turn of the Great Spy Experiment to take to the stage. First the bass, then Saiful’s guitar and finally the drum kick went AWOL and certainly the power of those magnificient songs were impacted. Notstanding the multitude of technical difficulties the band faced, the crowd were still entertained, singing along to those wonderful songs. Of the new songs, the Lights is beginning to shape up to be a monster – from Mag’s new wave synth growl to the dizzying chorus and the shoegazing denouement – this song is gonna have legs when it is finally recorded and released. I wait with bated anticipation at the prospect.

Pix by Nor Asyraf and Donald Soh.



“Here’s Johnny!”

The Shining’s impact on pop culture is undeniable. Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s reimagining of Stephen King’s tale of a haunted hotel has, despite initial critical and commercial failure, stood the test of time to emerge as a horror classic. The strength of The Shining is in Kubrick’s deft manipulation of mood and atmosphere and of course, Jack Nicholson’s manic performance.

Kubrick used King’s book only as a bare template (to King’s chagrin) and created something totally different. Whilst, King’s book focused on the hotel’s plan to assimilate little Danny’s powers, Kubrick shifts the focal point to Nicholson’s character and the attempts of the hotel to reclaim his spirit. In Kubrick’s hands, The Shining became a commentary on the disintergration of the nuclear family. The concept of a father betraying his wife and children has been replayed in families the world over.

For those who have never watched this classic, kindly note that the horror is played out not in cheap shocks or gore but in the realization that something is just not right. The scenes where Jack’s wife discovers that her husband has been typing out “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” on volumes of paper, where Jack encounters a naked woman in Room 237 who is not what she seems and everytime little Danny has a vision, are particularly chilling.

Not for the fainted hearted with unhinged imaginations.

The Shining (Two-Disc Special Edition)




I have to admit. I am a sucker for female singer-songwriters, such as the likes of Sarah Mclachlan on rainy days, Jewel in her early days, Tori Amos on bad days, and of course, the gloriously gorgeous-sounding and looking, Rachael Yamagata.

I can’t recall who was the kind soul who introduced me to her music. Regretfully, that was only after her performance at Mosaic in Singapore back in 2007. When I first heard her stuff, I was sold. Her sultrily grand vocals, crushingly sentimental lyrics, lush arrangements and frequent use of stringed instruments (cello and violin, my favourite combo) got me hooked. Very soon, she became my travelling companion, coffee mate and refuge on lonesome days.

The allure of Rachael Yamagata lies not with her wide array of themes splashed across her songs, but the ability to draw even the most inexperienced of listeners into her world of forlorn love, pining and hope with one single theme as the backdrop – Love. Being someone who has never been in a relationship, I find myself hopelessly captivated by her stories, wrapped up in her memories and savoring her pain as she croons, whispers, or at times, even growls into my ears through my Audio Technica headphones. There’s something about that voice that naturally grabs your attention and begs you to stay. It’s sultry, smoky, and somewhat reminds me of a cup of rich, strong black coffee layered with a dollop of cream. A touch of class and a beacon of strength beneath a silky smooth exterior.

Her latest album, “Elephants. Teeth Sinking Into Heart” has much to offer. What I love most is her vulnerability coupled with her wry sense of humor. Lyrics like “You have blood on your hands and I’m feeling faint. And honey, yeah you can’t decide” artfully portrays the anguish of a lover in wait. Others like “I don’t want to get too close to you and I don’t want you close to me. There’s a backdoor waiting just for you if this isn’t what you need.” shows her tongue-in-cheek perspective of a relationship not to be taken too seriously. But listen carefully and you’ll find a girl whose heart has been battered and bruised by losses. Instead of merely wallowing in the muddy ponds of depression, Rachael opted for the brave choice of sharing her pain, vulnerability and hopes with a people who are ready and willing to listen, displaying a feminine strength in her heart songs that beckons my attention.

Who knows? She just might intrigue you too with the sheer power of her music that promises to guide you through a journey of love and relationships. A road that is well-travelled and explored. Personally, I can’t wait to be blown away by her when she swings by the Esplanade on the 15th of April.

Tickets are on sale now at all Sistic outlets!


Rachael Teo is a talented Singaporean singer-songwriter and you can hear her music at www.myspace.com/rachaelteo



POMEGRANATES Everybody Come Outside (Lujo Records)

A Cincinnati band with a fruity name comes as a refreshing surprise with their second album Everybody Come Outside, to be officially released on April 14th 2009.

This conceptual indie pop serving refuses to be sub-labelled and therein lies its freshness. Strongly following the success of their debut album Everything is Alive released mid last year, this delightful confection, takes you on a journey of a young man leaving his home, only to be abducted by a time traveller..

In the band’s own words:

Everybody, Come Outside! is a group of songs that we will hope to use to share some thrilling times we once heard about, with some people we don’t know yet. Featuring the likes of a restless youth, eager to find himself, a gypsy captain leading a team of rag-tag time-travelers, and the worn, yet ever-trustworthy, wormhole cruiser, Corriander – fantastic dreams will ensue!”

From the get go, you’re intoxicated by the rock-fuelled, atmospheric guitar riffs, combined artistically with the thunderous beats – this is the title track, Everybody Come Outside. And truly, you are encapsulated by the fresh, bright aura of the moving pictures painted in your mind by vocalists Joey Cook and Issac Karns.

The contrast of their voices (one sounding very high-pitched, almost female and the other with a sombre indie tone), blend amazingly well to give you a two-toned effect of the atmosphere, whether it’s in tune with a solitary drum beat or the jangly notes of a guitar. This was evident on Beachcomber, the second track from the album, which follows almost like a page turner, with The Land Used to Be.

Expect each of the 11 tracks in the album to lead comfortably into the next. Certain tracks echoed of The Lightning Seeds and a subdued Ziggy Stardust era, almost ethereal/magical. The final track – Acoustic, is a 13 minute melody that puts a whispery close to the journey, with the lush pluckings of the guitar and the siren-like synth, coupled with the subtle echo of a live crowd, it’s like a lullaby for your senses.

I have to applaud the quartet’s ability to boldly experiment with different types of sounds and string it altogether like a pop-corn necklace. It actually works and it’s an album to be savoured as a whole – aquamarine and wildlife sounds included.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

Check out Pomegranates’ Myspace page at www.myspace.com/pomegranatesart



1. Why play music?

All my best ideas involve words and melodies. It’s a great challenge for me to compose and record a song, as I have no ability to write musical notation, nor am I a very adept musician. And I love a great creative challenge. It keeps me busy.

I also love a good song more than anything I can think of other than a good food. And I’m a terrible chef.

2. Who are your influences?

The Kinks, XTC, They Might Be Giants, R. Stevie Moore, The Residents, Noel Coward, The Monkees, Adrian Belew, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Richman, Captain Beefheart, The Mommyheads, and way too much TV!

3. What is success?

Success would be having as many people as possible hear what I’ve done, and have as many of those people as possible enjoy it.

Success would also be having songs with a sense of humor and playfulness be taken seriously as actual well-crafted music, instead of instantly being classified as novelty or children’s fare.

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because they’d have a hell of a time trying to download it illegally since no one will be putting up a bit torrent of my stuff!  They should also buy it because I could use the extra empty space in my apartment that is now being taken up by boxes of about 800 copies of my cd. And finally, if you buy a copy of my cd you get music, some really fun artwork/graphic design, and a ton of reading material. It’s a fine value for the money.

5. Who do you love?

I love whoever loves me back!

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

If I could get a song or two in a film or TV show, I think that would be a great achievement. If people have as much fun listening to my songs as I had in creating them, that would be the ultimate prize.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

No one, because I don’t play live. And if I did, I fear I’d get the same turnout.

8. What is your favorite album?

A boxset of all the albums I own. Seriously though, you have to be kidding if you think I can pick a favorite album. The best I can do would be to tell you what my favorite album is at the moment, which could change at any moment. And that would be “Jen Olive” by Jen Olive.

9. What is your favorite song?

See #8!  If I had to pick an all-time favorite song, I couldn’t. But how about a song that has been a favorite of mine for the longest time period? “Pure Imagination” from the original Willy Wonka movie.

10. How did you get here?

I started writing and recording songs for my college senior thesis in 1985, and haven’t stopped since. Just now I am beginning to come up with results that accurately resemble what I’ve been hearing in my head all along, but didn’t have the skill/patience/talent/time/confidence to make it happen. I still don’t quite have it, but I’m getting closer with each new song I record.

Mitch Friedman’s album Game Show Teeth is out now.


The 2nd installment of The Long and Winding Road, an article published in the No Finer Time to be Alive book on the S-ROCK scene of the 90s.

The Eighties was a lost decade for me and my muse. Other commitments stood in the way. My bandmates had flown over to the other side of the world, I had to serve my country, spend four years paper chasing, get-a-job and marry my sweetheart. My songwriting continued a pace as and when time permitted. On the odd year that my displaced colleagues returned, we recorded whatever material we could. In 1983, I sat at the piano and came up with My One And Only, a demo recording was made the following year. Most who heard it wasted no time to tell me that it would be a hit. And though I had faith in my own material, I knew that that would never come to pass. Or so I believed.

The local scene saw the sporadic releases from the likes of Heritage, Dick Lee and Zircon Lounge but no matter how accomplished the music was, as usual public consciousness was hardly dented. In the mid-Eighties, Before I Get Old or BigO( ‘Singapore’s only independant rock magazine’ )was born from the ashes of the defunct Sunday Monitor and with it the seeds of a local music scene was sown, though fruition would only be seen in the Nineties.

Whilst marginally interesting, my own attentions were not focused on these events and in fact entertained absolutely no thoughts of ever achieving anything substantially with my music. But i was soon to change my views-thanks to a certain gentleman named Patrick Chng.

It was 1989, the ubitquitous Chris Ho’s Pop Life article featured a motley trio of odd fellows who were touted by Ho as the next big thing locally. I poured through the contents of that piece religiously. What interested me most was that the band had released their own demo tape ( Mild ) independently! Definitely, I had missed out on something the past couple of years. My mind and heart raced, if these ordinary boys-next-door-types could do the business, there was hope for all would-be closet musicians. It certainly suggested the possibility to me.

Fuelled by this renewed optimism and faith in what could be achieved in the music scene, my bandmates and I decided that this was the year that things would finally happen for us as a group. With that in mind we set down to record as many songs as possible with the hope of releasing them either with an established record company or even independantly.

Thus during my bandmates’ summer vacation, we spent some time holed up in a bedroom – a true-blue homestudio and emerged with a few genuine tunes. That then, we concentrated on the next task-convincing someone somewhere that our material was worth a shot on the commercial market. I managed to obtain a few names from a former lawschool classmate who worked with COMPASS and certain phonecalls were then made.

Deja vu gripped me hard as we sat in the producer’s office. I had been given to understand that this person could give us the lowdown on our chances in the local music scene. If he was impressed enough, he would take us on and make that recording deal a reality. And so, it really seemed like the years had been peeled back to ten years before with that WEA A&R rep as the producer slided our latest demo cassette into the tape player. He would listen to a bit of each track and then fast-forward to the next one a thoughtful look passing over his bearded face everytime a new song was heard. I glanced at my bandmates – it seemed ( to us anyway ) that he could not but be impressed – our stuff was hot!

When he finally stopped the tape for the last time, he looked at us with a  slight smirk and in the most patronising of tones asked, ” Are you guys fans of the Lettermen ?”


He continued, ” Is that why you call yourselves the Watchmen ?”

We were too flabbergasted to come up with a suitable reply. What the hell was he talking about? We adopted the name because we loved Alan Moore’s comic. And no, we were decidedly not fans of the Lettermen.

It got worse. ” You guys are too old to make it in the local scene ”

Huh? I beg your pardon? Yes, we were in our late twenties then, but I daresay we were not knocking on the doors of the old folks homes. Not yet anyway.

He elaborated on his twisted logic. ” The only people who buy local English music are the kids. These kids want to see a young face. Let me show you what I mean.”

At which point he produces from his drawer a cassette and plays it for us. Commercial and inconsequential, the music contain the typical radio fodder of the day.

“Disco”, I said, rather disdainfully. I was corrected. ” Soul music, from an album called the First Time.”

And for those who were still in diapers back during those exciting times, this release introduced to the kids such notable personalities like Shawn De Mello and Jessica Soo.

” Nobody in Singapore wants to listen to local versions of the type of music you guys are creating. There’s no market for it.” so concluded our expert on the Singapore scene.

Disappointed and a little deflated by this man’s completely negative analysis of our craft, we trooped out of his office a dejected lot. Personally, I’ve never taken this kind of situation well. I regarded it as a slap in the face. Furthermore, with my partners leaving for the States again, things were again looking bleak. I had resigned myself to the fact that our last chance had come and gone.

… and there’s more …


Here’s a double whammy review as I attended the recording and am watching the TV show now. Let’s get right to it, shall we? The first two bands did warm-up sets 30 minutes before the show. Soul singer Fendi and the Fuze Collective got things going and did alright, though his singing was slightly pitchy. Backed by a kick-ass band with ex-Stoned Revivals guitarist Munir and the lovely Christine Sham on keyboards, Fendi delivered a competent soul-funk number that was good enough, I suppose.

Freaky Z impressed me with a full band line-up and skanky ska-reggae that I actually dug! How often can I say that in Singapore, eh? Saturday was the track and it was natural, smooth and hypnotic. This guy rules a stage like very few S-rappers (heh! just coined that) can. Note to self – keep a close eye on Freaky Z!

Expose!. Sometimes this can mean that your bad qualities are exposed to the general public, y’know. Take Atria, the “viewers’ choice”, I don’t mean to be cruel but the vocalist looked shell-shocked and sounded worse! The band was not much better, playing out-of-tune riffs as the song plodded on a slow boat to nowhere. Seriously, folks, these guys are not ready for national TV and anyone tuning in would certainly have tuned out.

My Noise apprentice Nick Tan was next. Man, you can tell that Nick was nervous but despite that, his strong melody comes through. The band is a little mish-mash and the song – Take Me Away – deserves a better arrangement but Nick’s gonna learn from this invaluable experience and move forward. Well, at least, the song is pretty listener friendly and that’s a start!

Full Pledge Munkies – which Red Jumpsuit Apparatus nailed as “ska” just from the name (heh!) – promised much with their horn section but the unimaginative ska-punk on stage ruined expectations. Cue moshing. The rhythms were inconsistent and the horn section and singer veered wildly off pitch. There was just no control on stage and the whole performance was just too messy to be enjoyable.

Being a former ACSian, it behooves me to completely dismiss the Sonic Youth entrants from RJC (!) – Chameleon Juice. Their jazzed up cover of golden oldie Cry Me A River was passable though the singer had quite a mature voice, although she lost steam at the end. As usual, I will gripe about having a school band play on TV when their performances should (for now anyway) be confined to their school auditorium. Still don’t get it…

Pub singer Michaela Therese is someone that I’ve heard good things about. But she was disappointing, performing her original track – Kismet – one of those modern jazz-tinged hip-hop R&B, which never quite got off the ground. It seemed like Michaela’s torchy voice was not well served by the beat, the rhythm or the bland tune. But still, there’s enough raw talent to suggest there may be more to Michaela that meets the eye (and ear).

So it was down to S-ROCK veterans Astreal to save the day. And boy, did they! With new boys Jason Ang and Joseph Chian augmenting the nucleus of Ginnette Chittick and Muhammad Alkhatib, the band showed everyone in the studio what S-ROCK is all about. An attitude, a sound and an indefinable star quality. The new blood seems to have invigorated this stalwart band and the three tracks performed (one and a half on TV) were awashed with sonic waves, Ginnette’s pixie-like vocals and pummelling percussion. A great way to end the night.

Next week – Fire Fight! Leeson! Can’t wait!

…and there’s more…



MITCH FRIEDMAN Game Show Teeth (Meechmusic)

Whimsical, offbeat and quirky song craft seems to be a rare commodity nowadays. Songs imbued with elements of comedy, music hall, vaudeville and equal amounts of psych-folk-rock. Say hello to Mitch Friedman who does the genre a tremendous service with this superb album.

Supported by like minded luminaries like Andy Partridge/Dave Gregory (XTC), Joe McGinty (Psychedelic Furs) & R. Stevie Moore, Friedman has pulled a veritable cat from out of the hat (or is that rabbit out of a bag?) with a slew of left-field gems that swell with ingenuity.

That said, the slightly erudite quality of the music here may put off the casual pop listen but fans of Syd Barrett, Ray Davies, Robyn Hitchcock, Martin Newell will thrill to inventive tracks like Little Masterpiece, The Man That Talked Too Much, As Moons Go and Often I Saunter.



U2 No Line on the Horizon (Universal-Island)

It’s hard to find an objective review when it comes to U2. How do you, when they’re arguably the biggest band in the world? The majority of reviewers out there (yours truly included) have to fight to resist two knee-jerk reactions when it comes to U2.  The first is to view any and every work by them through rose-tinted glasses and proclaim it their best work ever since The Joshua Tree/Achtung Baby. The second reaction is to dismiss them as over-aged, sanctimonious faux-rockers who are 20 years past their expiry date and vehemently attack their new offering with all the anti-rockstar clichés one can muster.

The latter has been growing increasingly commonplace of late, in light of frontman Bono’s earnest efforts at soapboxing and moonlighting as a political activist. (Insert your own joke about soapboxes and Bono’s diminutive height here.) Still, no other band on Earth can even come close to commanding the level of media attention, and at 29 years and counting since their debut album that is quite an accomplishment. At an age where most of their contemporaries are either irrelevant or disbanded, U2 continue to make music that is commercially relevant, powerful and most importantly fresh.

Given all of the above, then, one would be forgiven for thinking that they’d be comfortable resting assuredly on their laurels. Not so for U2. From The Unforgettable Fire to Achtung Baby, Zooropa to All That You Can’t Leave Behind, U2 have always been at their best when they’re pursuing their music with a dogged restlessness and willingness to step beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones. After the back to basics of the last two records, the time was right for U2 to shake it all up again.

This brings us to their latest record: No Line On The Horizon. The first thing you notice once you pop it into the CD player is the distance from their last album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.  The album opener and titular track is quite assuredly not the radio-friendly stadium-sized advertising jingle that Vertigo was, with its key-shifting riff and polyrhythmic structure. Fans of U2’s experimental 90s work will be gratified to hear that, although there are still shades of the familiar amidst the textural density. For example, 2nd single Magnificent should be a traditional U2 anthem with its melting, coruscating guitarwork and epic, worshipful vocals. The rhythm section though anchors the song with a stomping aggressiveness that could have been on Achtung Baby. Likewise, Breathe is a number that is sonically similar to the U2 of 20 years ago, but it shines with a Dylanesque verve and confident flow that is colored in parts by Arabian and Oriental influences.

Certain tracks in particular indicate that U2 have never really gotten over their infatuation with technology. Lead single Get On Your Boots is a buzzing electrofunk number that ambiguously straddles the territory between catchy and annoying, and Fez-Being Born is perhaps their most experimental number ever since Passengers, with a slow, drifting ambient introduction that morphes into a grinding, driving impressionistic track.

Perhaps the greatest difference from Bomb is the lack of an instant melody. On Horizon, U2 have traded their sticky hooks and ringing radio baits for subtle, nifty sonic textures. Unlike the previous albums of this decade, No Line On The Horizon is much more reluctant to give up its gems at first listen. It is instead on the 5th or 6th round that one starts to appreciate the subtle details and musical maturity that Horizon is characterized by. One such example is Moment of Surrender, a slow burning, soulful gospel number that find Bono delivering some of his heaviest lyrics yet since 97’s Pop. Even the token pop numbers here don’t really ignite in your ears until you’ve invested yourself thoroughly into them, with I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight in particular sounding better with every listen. The softer numbers in particular will grow on you sneakily, and before you realize it, you’ll be feeling an all too familiar tingle down your spine as you listen to White as Snow or Cedars of Lebanon.

How do I end this review? It’s near impossible to fully and realistically give an accurate account here, seeing as how it’s an album that is denser than any of its predecessors this decade. Every listen will bring about new observations and opinions, some good some bad. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay it is that a few weeks after my first listen I still haven’t found the best track on the record. Like a good, full-bodied wine, this is a record that will get better with time.

(Samuel C Wee)

I’ve recently been enjoying the 2008 remasters of Boy and October and marveling at the sheer inventive energy of U2 as baby band. Of course, those albums are now almost 30 years old, a generation ago. I must admit that I feared for this album when I heard the rather formlaic and lacklustre Get On Your Boots. Happy to report that the rest of No Line on the Horizon is pretty much an inversion of its first single. U2 has managed to reinvent itself all over again as they did with Unforgettable Fire and Achtung Baby all those years ago.

There is a distinct elegance and grace in the new songs here, certainly a reaction to the bombast of the last two albums, that frankly I think has only been witnessed infrequently on previous efforts. Songs like You’re So Cruel (from Acthung Baby) and A Sort of Homecoming (from Unforgettable Fire) – intriguingly two of my favorite U2 songs – provide the template for much of this surprisingly understated album. It’s only on incongrous material like Get On Your Boots, Breathe and Stand Up Comedy that the plan goes slightly awry. The overall mood and tone is very chill-out and cinematic. This probably sounds like hyperbole but I believe that No Line on the Horizon is U2’s best album since Achtung Baby and certainly already one of the best for 2009.