HUMPBACK OAK

HUMPBACK OAK Oaksongs (Self-released)

It has been annoying me no end that so many young musicians in Singapore have not heard of Humpback Oak. Not even my aspiring singer-songwriters. Well, its not their fault as until yesterday, the three Humpback Oak albums – Pain-stained Morning, Ghostfather and SideASideB – have all been out-of-print and the record label that released them, now defunct.

Well, I’m happy to report that in order to remedy this imperfect situation, the band has self-released (and self-assembled) this wonderful 4-disc retrospective boxset which includes the aforementioned LPs as well as a disc of rare tracks from their early “demo” cassettes (presented in mp3 format). I braved the extreme heat today to pick up my copy (No. 161/500) and it has definitely worth the time, money & effort.

The sound on the discs is immaculate, even the rarities come across well – maybe even better than how they first sounded on cassette! – and the sheer wealth of material here is staggering. Also included, the band’s earnest attempts to cover Dylan e.g. Like A Rolling Stone, If Not For You and of course, one of my favourite S-ROCK songs – Twang Bar Kings’ Daddy in the Lift – with Leslie Low still on helium (and you can also find the song on +65 Indie Underground compilation).

More than a mere exercise in nostalgia, Oaksongs is positive proof of the eminent worth of S-ROCK’s special 90s revival and a milestone in the musical history of our island nation. Not since the early days of independance did our rock and pop music reflect the creative and artistic edge that Singaporeans are capable of, like the 90s. If there’s anything to be nationalistic or patriotic about our country, it is the fact that Humpback Oak is/was one of our very own – to treasure and to proclaim and yes, to enjoy…

Apart from the fine music – the band has spared no effort in making Oaksongs a complete experience for its admirers. Thus, the boxset design is something you have to savour in 3-D (though the pix look cool, huh?) and over at the band’s official site, even newbies will be treated to tons of information to pick through and devour. Oaksongs surely qualifies as one of the best retrospective collections anywhere.

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… DRIBBLING …

HOW DO YOU SLEEP?

When Roberto Mancini was appointed as manager of Man City, I made the following comments: –

Vaunted foreign coaches like Ramos, Eriksson and Scolari have all found the going tough and have paid for their failures but of course the likes of Wenger and Mourinho have proved themselves to be wildly successful. How will it all turn out for Mancini and Man City? Will Mancini be able to withstand the scrutiny and the pressure? Will his players be able to?

Initially, Mancini appeared to be the man to bring City to the next level as his wealthy employers hoped with four straight wins. But the honeymoon period is well and truly over.

First, Craig Bellamy was reportedly involved in a clash with Mancini over training methods. Then, Carlos Tevez had to go home to Argentina to attend to his prematurely-born daughter. Now, after being knocked out by Stoke City in the FA Cup 5th Round and a poor run of Prem results, Mancini seems to have lost the dressing room and his position looks threatened.

The rumour is that if Man City does not get into the top four at the end of the season, Mancini will be sacked and yet another manager will be brought in. Madness!

The reason why former manager Mark Hughes was removed was that City owners were not confident that Hughes could deliver on the top four target (given Hughes’ own modest managerial record) and thus, Mancini – who has a enviable record in Serie A – was appointed.

So why would Mancini’s employers not give him more than six months and with players of his own choosing to prove himself in the Premiership? Maybe, its because whilst the City owners may be good at making money from oil, THEY HAVE NO F–KING CLUE HOW TO RUN A FOOTBALL CLUB!

Of course, with 12 matches to go and only goal difference currently separating City from 4th spot, Champions League qualification is still possible but with the pressure mounting on Mancini and his players, that achievement may be a bridge too for City this season.

COMMERCIAL BREAKDOWN

Getup Merch is a Singaporean home-grown online store that imports the band merch people want (mainly imported band t-shirts) and also supports the local scene by selling music/merch from local/regional acts.

The folks at Getup Merch have organized a launch gig featuring a palette of S-ROCK bands who favour a noisier edge.

Details below –

GIG NAME: Commercial Breakdown

DATE: 19th March 2010

TIME: 5pm till late

VENUE: Blackhole 212, Singapore. 212 Syed Alwi Road.

Featuring –
Vermillion (Hardcore/Rock) – http://www.myspace.com/vermillionsg
A Bitter Affection (Emocore/Rock) – http://www.myspace.com/abitteraffection
Demura (Metal) – http://www.myspace.com/demurasg
My Precious (No-Core) – http://www.myspace.com/myprecious
20 Dischanger (Pop-Punk) – http://www.myspace.com/20dischanger
The Atria (Alternative) – http://www.myspace.com/theatriasingapore
Pre-order the tickets now from Getup Merch for $6, as it is going to be $8 at the door.
Get your tickets at the Getup Merch site.

HALL & OATES

DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES SET THE STYLE IN PLAYBOY’S ANNUAL ‘ROCK THE RABBIT’ ISSUE

Pair spotlighted in pictorial along with fellow musicians Michael Bublé, Snoop Dogg, Maxwell and Pete Yorn for annual music issue

NEW YORK, Feb. 23, 2010— Daryl Hall and John Oates can now honestly say they read Playboy magazine for the articles, especially after participating in the magazine’s annual “Rock the Rabbit” fashion pictorial along with such luminaries as Michael Bublé, Snoop Dogg, Maxwell and Pete Yorn. The six-page pictorial was shot by famed music photographer Mick Rock, as each musician sported their own unique look and commented on their sense of fashion and style.

In the piece, in which Daryl sports a leather jacket by Schott NYC, a J. Crew shirt, jeans by 5EP, Ray-Ban shades and his own custom Kimmel boots, Daryl describes his famous locks: “The idea of wearing long hair goes back to the American Revolution,” he explains. “Americans decided to stop wearing wigs and wear their own hair long. Rebellion is tradition, so I dress in a traditional rebel style.”

John, on the other hand, goes typically earthy, with a leather jacket by Rogue, as well as shirt and jeans by 7 For All Mankind.

Daryl Hall and John Oates have experienced an incredible surge of interest in their music over the past few years, culminating with the critically-acclaimed release of their four-CD Sony Legacy box set, Do What You Want: Be What You Are, which features 74 tracks, 16 of them previously unreleased, from the band’s incredible career. The pair’s “You Make My Dreams Come True” was featured prominently in the hit indie movie, (500) Days of Summer. Hall’s monthly webcast, Live From Daryl’s House (www.livefromdarylshouse.com), has become one of the most applauded sites on the Internet, featuring a mix of established veterans and newcomers, all linked by their love of the music of Daryl and John. The most recent episode features Daryl playing an eight-song set in Jamaica with legendary reggae artist Toots Hibbert.

The band’s fan base includes a who’s-who of popular musicians, including Rob Thomas, The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and Gym Class Heroes, who dubbed their tour “Daryl Hall for President 2007.” Another popular band, Chromeo, will be performing with Daryl Hall on June 11th at Bonnaroo, where they will be taking the “Live from Daryl’s House” experience to the stage at the famed Tennessee festival.

Next month, noted L.A. band the bird and the bee are set to release their Blue Note/EMI Music album, Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, which includes eight covers of the pair’s greatest hits, along with two originals inspired by them.

And, if that wasn’t enough, talk-show host (and outspoken fan) Rachael Ray is currently compiling an online petition to get Daryl and John into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pix by Mick Rock.

THE BESNARD LAKES

THE BESNARD LAKES The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)

“Widescreen rock” is a genre I coined to describe bands/artists who paint their own new masterpieces on the broad canvas of five decades of pop-rock music. Comic fans will be aware that I “borrowed” the phrase from writer Warren Ellis who described his comic book series, the Authority as “widescreen comics”.

In my humble estimation, “widescreen rock” includes the likes of The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and the now defunct Grandaddy. Well, I’m glad to also induct Canadian band, The Besnard Lakes, into the Widescreen Rock Hall of Fame! I found the band’s sophomore effort – The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horses – akin to listening to Pink Floyd fronted by Brian Wilson, and one of the best albums of 2007.

This new album (due for release in early March), continues the fine form shown on Dark Horses, with the band drawing from the deep well of arcane rock, with references dropped to psychedelic rock, country-folk and prog throughout. With treated guitars, soaring vocals, electronic sound effects, old school keyboards, the songs here sound modern and classic at the same time – familiar and yet strange. The combination of the male-female vocal dynamic between Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas is priceless, as well.

Astute listeners will catch the heady influences of Neil Young, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, the Bee Gees and the aforementioned widescreen rock bands in fine tracks like Chicago, Albatross, The Innocent and Light Up the Night. Modern rock fans into the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and the Animal Collective (all current proponents of widesrceen rock) will definitely want to check out the Besnard Lakes.

Free download of Albatross here. A video below.

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Lewis Carroll’s classic literary work gets the quirky Tim Burton treatment with the upcoming Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland. Carroll’s story is best known for its lively, memorable characters viz. the Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the White Rabbit, the Mock Turtle etc.

Personally, I’ve always loved the Cheshire Cat and the incongrous visual idea of the smiling trickster – something that could not be trusted despite the appealing facade. Burton’s take on the character (see above) is to emphasize the “creepy” aspect of the concept – which brings to mind the notorious Batman villian, the Joker. Certainly, a movie to look forward to…

Check out the trailer below.

Catch Alice in Wonderland in cinemas starting from 4th March 2010 and join the official Facebook and Twitter page!

FRAME 137

Frame 137 Teaser from Judd L. Tilyard on Vimeo.

Who is Judd L. Tilyard?

He is an Aussie indie filmmaker behind Frame 137, a short film based on the work of James O’Barr creator of the Crow, and made with his permission. The music used in the teaser, was recorded for the film by Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters).

I mean, who is this guy, really?

This teaser is getting quite a bit of online buzz. What do you think?

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WIGAN 0 SPURS 3

Prior to this result, Spurs had only won one Prem game in 2010 – a dismal record which had many – including their own fans – doubting Spurs’ ability to finish 4th come the end of the season. At the end, it was a rather more comprehensive victory than first imagined, under atrocious pitch conditions. Similar to the hard-fought win at Blackburn, Spurs proved that if willing, they are capable of grinding out a result.

For Wigan, their season has been defined somewhat by that 1-9 drubbing Spurs handed to them at the Lane but any thoughts of revenge were mostly unfulfilled due to a toothless attack which were easily defended by Michael Dawson and Ledley King. In midfield, Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone nullified any creative notions of their Wigan counterparts. But upfront, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe were finding it hard to make any headway.

That is, until Gareth Bale bombed down the left flank to put across a teasing centre which the seemingly offside Defoe converted easily. And that appeared to be that as Wigan struggled to make any impact on the Spurs goal with Crouch and Defoe denied by good goalkeeping from Chris Kirkland. At roughly the hour mark, Harry Redknapp brought on Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modric for Defoe and Niko Krancjar respectively, and these changes turned the tide completely in Spurs’ favour.

With Modric at the heart of every good Spurs move, Pavlyuchenko made the game safe for Spurs with a smart finish from good work by Modric in the 84th minute and an instinctive poacher’s goal from a set piece in added time. So, are Spurs geniune contenders for a top 4 place? Well, with 11 games to go, Spurs now sit in 4th place (on superior goal difference) albeit having played one game more than Man City and Aston Villa. So, yes, there’s still all to play for. Not to mention the little matter of a FA Cup 5th round replay with Bolton this Wednesday.

COYS!!!

GRAND ATLANTIC

GRAND ATLANTIC How We Survive (Laughing Outlaw)

Y’know, its about time for the excellent rock music of the 90s to make a comeback. Seriously folks, there’s the power pop of Teenage Fanclub and Superdrag, the dream pop of Ride and House of Love and the Britpop of Oasis and Blur, to name but few, to revive. Add these elements with a straight ahead rockist attitude and what you get is timeless kick-ass rock that makes no apologies and takes no prisoners.

Aussie band Grand Atlantic’s How We Survive LP contains all these wonderful factors, which makes it one of the most immediate albums I’ve heard so far this year. Songs like Coast is Clear, She’s A Dreamer and the title track cover all the right reference points for fans of 90s rock music.

This gratifying album is a briliant evocation of a special musical epoch and is thus highly recommended.

Music video of She’s A Dreamer below.

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COUPLE UK TOUR

This is just the most AMAZING news! Malaysia’s premier power poppers Couple will be on tour in the UK come March 2010. I will let Couple leader Aidil give us the dirt himself –

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We’re being brought there by Malaysian students studying in the UK, they’ve this organisation called KNUKE. We’ll be going from the 17th-29th March 2010.

The KNUKE kids have set up 3 shows for us there in Manchester, Liverpool and London. We’ve managed to get 2 extra gigs for, one at the Dirty Water Club night (a longstanding garage rock night that’s been going in since 1996 – their claim to fame includes doing the eary London shows for The White Stripes and of course having legends like The Monks and current garage darlings like King Khan, Jay Reatard (RIP) and The Black Lips regularly play at their nights).

The other extra show we’ve managed to get is at this small pub called The Windmill in Brixton, who seem to have made quite a name for itself as a great venue (The Independent named it one of the Top Ten Venues In The UK and past performers have included so many great acts like Stereolab, Shonen Knife, Daniel Johnston, The Magic Numbers right up to hip and current acts like Bloc Party, The Cribs, Yeasayer, Archie Bronson Outfit, British Sea Power and so many more).

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I am so excited for the band and really wish I could be there! If you happen to be in the area, please note the dates below.

19th March – KNUKE Presents: Couple UK Tour @ Students’ Union, University Of Manchester

21st March – Dirty Water Club @ The Stag’s Head, London

23rd March – KNUKE Presents: Couple UK Tour @ The Backroom@Bumper, Liverpool

24th March – The Windmill, Brixton, London

28th March – KNUKE Presents: Couple UK Tour @ The Fiddlers, Camden, London

More Couple at the Power of Pop in the days to come…

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HERO TOMORROW DVD

HERO TOMORROW DVD (Swinging Cane Productions)

With the modern day superhero movie being synonymous with big budget blockbusters, it’s refreshing to come across an indie film that attempts to present superhero concepts in an arthouse manner. Hero Tomorrow – helmed by Ted Sikora – is, as it’s press release suggests, “a trippy comic shop romance with a superhero twist”.

The romance in question involves David (Perren Hedderson) – a struggling comic book artist – and Robyn (Jocelyn Wrzosek)  – his wannabe fashion designer girlfriend. Robyn makes David a Halloween costume based on his original creation Apama and things, as they say, start to go seriously wrong after that…

As with many arthouse film, it starts a little tentatively (and even awkwardly) but once you warm up to the characters, the film really takes off with intriguing plot developments and genuinely heartfelt and funny moments. The superhero elements slowly fade to the background and Hero Tomorrow really becomes a story about two dysfunctional personalities in love and how their troubled relationship is resolved.

Anyone who loves a good indie film and appreciates excellent (albeit quirky) storytelling will be touched (one way or another) by Hero Tomorrow.

Trailer below.

Official Site

ALMOST CHARLIE

From Words On Music

Berlin’s Almost Charlie has released its debut music video its acclaimed new record The Plural of Yes.

Love Condensed is an animated short film that follows the protagonist on an otherworldly journey rich with symbolism and images both eye opening and heartrending.

“Love Condensed” is the first single off The Plural of Yes. The album, a cunning blend of gifted melodies and chamber pop atmospherics, is the offspring of a transatlantic songwriting duo who, to this day, have never met (singer/guitarist Dirk Homuth in Berlin, and lyricist Charlie Mason in New York City).

With The Plural of Yes, Almost Charlie puts its stamp on one of 2009’s essential works in indie-pop. Homuth is a connoisseur of timeless pop craftsmanship – distilling the heady years of AM-radio splendor, from Bacharach to The Beatles, into 13 addicting indie-pop coated pills.

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… DRIBBLING …

WILD BOYS

No, boyz and grrls, I haven’t suddenly decided to turn the Power of Pop into a money-making site by featuring scantily-clad babes (not yet anyway), the ill-dressed lady pictured above is related to this … dribbling … post. Trust me.

Yes, those of you in the know will be aware that the hot babe above is in fact, pop star Cheryl Cole. Football fans may know her better as Mrs Ashley Cole. Yes, the Ashley Cole who is the latest celebrity sportsman involved in lurid tales of infidelity and another tabloid’s dream come true!

You would be keenly aware that the wives of folks like Tiger Woods, John Terry and Ashley Cole tend to be unnaturally good looking which puts the behaviour of their respective husbands in sharp relief. So isn’t being young, rich and famous enough for this lot that they just have to have every appealing woman that comes into their sights as well? Apparently not.

What does this have to do with football? Well, over at Chelsea, owner Roman Abramovich has reportedly warned his players to behave or else. You can see where he’s coming from. Already the sex scandal has had a negative impact on Terry – losing the England captaincy ahead of the World Cup and losing focus in the recent defeat vs Everton. I guess its just as well that Cole is injured at the moment as Chelsea cannot afford any more slip-ups with Man Utd (with Rooney in searing form) breathing down their necks.

With the crucial run-in in League and Cup looming, clubs need their players to be concentrating on the game and not on unsavory off-field activities and inviting unnecessary press scrutiny. Is the Cole saga the last one for now or is it merely the tip of the iceberg? We never had entertainment like this in the good old days…

INCH CHUA

S-ROCK songstress Inch Chua continues her pre-SXSW marketing campaign with a slot on ChannelNewsAsia’s Primetime Morning. The 21-year-old singer-songwriter is her usual charming self as the presenters attempt to come to grips with a real-life local musician. It’s refreshing to see a natural person on TV without any pretensions whatsoever. It’s a crime that someone as talented (and likable) as Inch is not given a fraction of the support given to a Singapore Idol but hopefully things will get better in the near future. In the meantime, check out Inch’s interview here and hope and pray that we get to see more of Inch on TV.

Go, Inch!

THE POWER OF POP INTERVIEW – SEZAIRI SEZALI

What does it mean to you, to be crowned as the latest Singapore Idol?

It means a lot being crowned as the latest Singapore idol, its always been a dream of mine to be able to write music, and reach out to as many people as I can and this has been the perfect platform for me to do so.  I remember how watching season one has inspired me so much, and how taufik’s journey on idol had a huge impact on me wanting to pursue music. Now being in this position as the 3rd idol, it feels really surreal that its my job now to inspire.

Do you see yourself primarily as a singer-performer?

Primarily yes, but I also have an affection with song-writing, music arrangement, production and recording. I see myself taking a front seat with my material and I really enjoy being behind the scenes as well.

Do you have your own original songs?

Yes I do. I wrote almost all our material when I was performing with my band, juxtapose. I also write songs for my solo performances which made their debut at the esplanade on the 5th of August 2009, slightly before idol started. Perfect timing I guess.

If so, will you record any of your originals for your album?

Of course! I take pride in my song writing and there is a high possibility that a few of my songs will be on the album, which ones though, will depend of the overall flow of the album and the message and direction that it is going.

You’re serving National Service now, how are you going to juggle NS and promotion for your album?

It’s been really tough juggling everything, but its also a blessing in disguise I guess. Being in BMT has given the producers a little more time in settling other album issues, while I touch up on the vocal aspects of the album. It has also given me time to think a lot on how I want certain songs to sound like, and how it’s going to be delivered in the album. As for promotions, I don’t see it as an obstacle as platforms like television, radio and even the internet are being tapped into while I’m away, anyway I’m passing out from BMT soon and we’ll have more time to promote.

Do you think your first single “Touched By An Angel” will do well? Will it hit #1 on the radio charts?

I got a shock when I heard it debuted at #16 on its 1st week on the 98.7fm top 20. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say that it will eventually reach #1, but “Touched By An Angel” is a good song and it is reminiscent of my entire idol journey, the ups, the downs and the hardships face. So I guess people can relate to that.

What are your influences for singing? For songwriting?

My main influence are people in general. How people are and what people experience, love, hate, angst are strong emotional influences on me as well. The aim in writing songs for me is for people to have an emotional connection with the song and therefore, me.

What do you hope to achieve with the upcoming album?

The main thing I hope to achieve in the 1st album is to create a stronger sense of identity, for people to get to know me better and really see what I am like, who I really am. Because so far on idol, we’ve only been performing cover songs and that’s not really who I am. So I hope people will give the album a shot and give me a shot to show them what is me.

Can you tell us anything about the new album?

There’s a lot to tell! But I would like to keep it a surprise though. Hope to expect a mixture of the pop/funk sounds of Maroon 5, the bare soul of James Morrison and a really pretty guitar on the album cover. Haha!

What does the future hold for Sezairi Sezali?

A lot of good things, hopefully. I have so many plans and so many things that I would like to achieve but I wouldn’t want to jinx it because right now they seem so farfetched. But hey, idol has taught me that nothing is impossible, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

HUMPBACK OAK

Without the past, there can be no present or future. It’s about time that the S-ROCK scene recognizes and celebrates what has gone before. In anticipation of the retrospective boxset, Oaksongs, Humpback Oak has set up this website to let you in on everything you need to know concerning Oaksongs.

Of course, the key information is this –

Yes, boys and girls, the countdown begins now…

Location below –

TRACY SHEDD

TRACY SHEDD EP88 (Eskimo Kiss)

On her previous release, Cigarettes & Smoke Machines, singer-songwriter Tracy Shedd combined classic country-folk flavoured rock with a pinch of British post-punk edge. The new EP88, continues in this vein somewhat, with Shedd focusing on the piano as her main instrument and husband/guitarist James Tritten evoking the spectre of Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and New Order.

Which makes for powerful, memorable mood-rock music, which sits comfortably in the seemingly polar genre settings. With melodies derived from a more traditional source, backed by atmospheric strings (guitar and violin), songs like the haunting City At Night, the driving Tokyo Rose and the pleasing West Inn Love will stand up to repeated plays.

Highly recommended.

Free download of City At Night. Video below

Official Site

ANNIE STEVENSON

ANNIE STEVENSON 2010 EP (Self-released)

Scottish pop-rockers – Annie Stevenson – take the best of old school punk and 90s Britpop to deliver spiky, edgy  and tuneful songs that recall the likes of the Clash and Blur. This 4-track self-released EP gets better with each subsequent listening and I personally am impressed with the range of Annie Stevenson’s music, without sacrificing accessibility. Songs like the quirky Country Killer and I’m the One You Hold contrast well with the more straightforward rockin’ Get Off the Street and TV Took My Soul. A band that promises much.

2010 EP is available for free download here. Get it whilst you can!

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ASTRONINJA FINAL SHOW

Say what you will about controversial local rock frontman, Levan Wee, but that man knows how to put on a rock & roll show. At his 251st and final gig with Astroninja in Singapore before leaving for Melbourne, Australia to pursue his studies, the irreverent punk rocker pulled out all the stops (and then some) to ensure an unforgettable show.

Before I proceed further let me put my hands up and say that as a latecomer and early-leaver to the gig, my account is neither the most complete nor accurate one. Nevertheless, my time at the gig was an explosive encounter. I arrived at the underground gig at Blackhole 212, tucked away in a small venue at Syed Alwi Road around half-past 7, and was promptly greeted by the punk-hardcore sounds of Vermillion. Despite their best efforts, they failed to rouse the thin crowd beyond a few stray moshers. I won’t pretend to be an expert enough on hardcore music to pass comment on their performance, but it’s probably fair to say that it was always going to be an uphill battle for Vermillion to win over an audience who had turned up for the manic pop-punk stylings of Astroninja.

The rock and roll commenced proper when Thambi K Seaow took to the stage. This being an underground gig, warts and all, there was no hiding away from the audience while the band set up, a scenario which frontman Shyam Raj exploited to the fullest extent, alternately teasing and cajoling the crowd by leading them in chants against a certain local Indian comedian as well as offering $5 to the craziest person in the crowd. (I could have sworn I overheard two girls discussing whether they should take off their bras, but I can’t be too sure.) The relaxed camaraderie and banter continued well into the performance proper, with Shyam and bassist Rory keeping spirits high by shooting off their mouths every other minute with vulgarities in at least three different national languages. Racial integration at its finest—well done TKS!

Musically the four-piece got the crowd roaring with their blend of melodic southern rock and ethnic flavours; I’m sure I wasn’t the only Hokkien Chinese in the crowd who had a hoot singing along to their Hokkien lyrics. Shyam Raj was in fine form as well, proving why he is one of the local scene’s finest vocalists with his impassioned belting. The energy level dropped a bit towards the end as both Shyam and the crowd tired, but nonetheless it was still a brilliant set from TKS.

(Coincidentally enough, the gig also marked Shyam’s last underground performance before leaving for Florida for his studies, a fact that perhaps accounted for the madcap energy. No idea how that related to Shyam’s decision to strip down to his underwear though.)

The loudest cheers of the night, though, were reserved for Astroninja, whose popularity overseas accounted for some of the foreign fans in the audience, including some who came from countries as far away as Canada and Poland. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, this writer met the cutest girl ever in the audience who claimed to be from Malaysia, but unfortunately was foolish enough to get neither name nor number. Ah well. If said girl is reading this please leave a comment! (This close to Valentine’s day as well – Kevin)

More than a few hoots were had when a few band members turned up eclectically dressed: Stand-in bassist Visa of Armchair Critic fame showed off his recent gymwork in a pair of tight, hot pink hot pants (and nothing else) while Levan donned his usual Jeff Hardy get-up, though with the added twist of Japanese face-paint and a schoolgirl skirt. (Levan, being Levan, couldn’t resist flashing the crowd his underwear on at least one occasion.) After a couple of initial technical problems with the microphone which were solved with the help of a selfless, compassionate and rather dashing crowd member (alright, it was this writer again), the band ripped into the set, opening with a version of National Day song We Are Singapore which led into a cover of My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not Okay. Things got a tad cheeky during The Bukkake Udon Song when the band took the name literally and squirted a suspiciously white, creamy liquid into the audience. (I was told it was Japanese mayonnaise, but one can never be too sure.)

The rest of the set was similarly high-energy, fist-pumping stuff, with Astroninja standards like Anthem For The Ordinary and Holly Jean mixed with more unexpected choices like a cover of Lady Gaga’s Pokerface. Despite the occasion, sentimentality was in short supply; a speech from Levan thanking his friends in a rare tender moment was cut short by the singer himself, who jokingly referred to it as “faggot talk”. Nonetheless, nostalgia was in the air: in between numbers Levan reminisced about his time in the local scene as well as how far he had come since his secondary school days as a self-confessed loser and a geek. The biggest nostalgic piece was saved for last, when the band ended with a roaring version of the Ronin radio hit Black Maria which shook the place to its foundations.

So there was it then: 8 years of hit-making, controversy-stirring and punk-rocking ended with an explosive, unforgettable encounter at Blackhole 212. The albino frontman has been called many things over the years but boring has never been among the adjectives used to describe him, and boring was certainly in none of the audience member’s vocabulary after the gig. Here’s wishing him all the best for the next 6 years of his life. Now, excuse me while I go back to kicking myself for not having gotten that cute girl’s name or number.

(Samuel C Wee)
If anyone has any pix of this gig they wanna share – please get in touch. info (at) powerofpop (dot) com.

KUAN

KUAN On/Standby EPs (Kuan)

Named after a Buddhist term that symbolizes wordless contemplation, Kuan, is a Dayton, Ohio based quartet comprising bassist Bryan Wright, drummer Brett Nagafuchi and guitarists Charles Heck and Paul Larkowski who deliver more than meditative mantras in their latest offering On/Standby, a two-disc ep of aural textures and hues seamlessly pulping math-rock, avant-garde jazz and post-punk into a raucously beautiful mess.

On showcases the prowess of the band’s current line up in almost forty minutes of feverish tight-arsed instrumentation in six tracks while Standby is pretty much a bonus disc consisting of material recorded in 2007 as a trio before Wright’s foray into the set-up.

Imagine yourself stuck in a decaying city enveloped by broken glass and burned out buildings but amidst all that squalor, a bewilderingly joyous soundtrack is heard and you can’t help but dance your way into destruction. That’s quite possibly the best way to describe Kuan’s sound to neophytes, despite concerns of how everything might fall apart at any minute, the wicked intuition from the technically astute musicians creates aural bacchanalia for anyone who listens to them.

Distortion and melodies, the forte of this band – is obvious right from the effervescent opening track G from On, the joyously angular banter between guitarists Heck and Larkowski is ably supported by Nagafuchi’s primal drumming and subtle assaults from bassist Wright. Antiquated Moog synthesizers so often the instrument of choice for Detroit techno heads and musically inclined stand-up comedians, steals the limelight in J as Wright and Larkowski channel George Harrison’s obsession with psychedelic sitar licks, into one hella of a bopping tune. My favourite track is K, the album’s finale, a resonant interplanetary rock epic that glows with a gluttonous surfeit of clever aural manipulation and destined to even make twinkling purple Martians gyrate. Standby pales by comparison to the riveting On (could have been a mistake playing it after the latter).  But the disc still has elements of their trademark sounds, and clearly encapsulates the evolution of a promising trio to a mean quartet.

Kuan is essential listening for connoisseurs who dig the intricate sonic landscapes painted by bands such as Battles, Explosions in the Sky, Slint, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 65daysofstatic, Mogwai, Aphex Twin and Tortoise.

(PJ Benjamin)

Official Site

Myspace

LOVE DOWNLOAD

Love Download was an initiative started by Carlos Castaño, where two of the more powerful mediums in the modern age, Music and Internet, would be used in the name of Love. Love Download is a website that highlights different causes who strive to make a difference in our world today, giving them attention they deserve. Various musicians from the Phillipines and around Asia have also put up a song each to be downloaded in support of the causes. Music was used as the medium to get the message out and bring about awareness to causes we might not have otherwise been exposed to.

With so many events happening, last year was a trying year, with so many different things happening to our brothers and sisters overseas. While there were moments of immeasurable happiness, the last half of the year reminded us that there are areas that still need love.

With the new year just starting, the fight is far from over. There are still millions of people in our country and around the world that needs love in practical ways. It will be a challenge that might not seem very practical, but it’ll be worth it stepping out of out comfort zones.

Artists that contributed songs for download include some of my favourite bands from the Philippines, including Angulo, who played at Urbandub’s Singapore album launch of The Apparition, Pitik, Salamin, The Rinka Collective as well as musicians from around Asia.

Show your support by visiting www.smallredmedia.com to view the causes who make a difference in our world today and to download tracks of musicians in support of the cause!

(Rebecca Lincoln)

BOLTON 1 SPURS 1

For the first 45 minutes of this FA Cup 5th Round tie, Spurs were awful. Even though, arguably, Harry Redknapp selected his best starting eleven, this Spurs team just did not turn up for the first half. Owen Coyle’s Bolton looked like world beaters – or maybe Spurs made them look that way – as they mixed up their style of play with long ball and short passing strategies employed.

With the Spurs defence seemingly distracted by David Bentley not being waved back into play by the referee Phil Dowd, Bolton took the lead through Kevin Davies (yet again!). Spurs were fortunate to go into the break only a goal down as we were simply second best in every department.

However, Spurs improved in the 2nd half and with Spurs Man-of-the-Match Gareth Bale flying down the left flank posed the biggest attacking threat to Bolton. Spurs hit the woodwork twice before finally, one centre came to Jermain Defoe, for once unmarked in the box, and that extra space was all Spurs leading marksman needed to rifle home the equalizer. Well deserved on the balance of play.

Spurs were now in the ascendancy and earned a penalty through Peter Crouch’s clever work. Unfortunately, Jussi Jaaskelainen saved Tom Huddlestone’s poor spot kick and spurned the opportunity to win the tie. It seems that Spurs is determined to make things tough on ourselves as the tie goes to White Hart Lane for the replay.

I guess after that dismal 1st half performance, Spurs fans should be happy to be still in the Cup but objectively, Spurs should have converted that penalty and won the match. Once again, Spurs proved that we lack that crucial winning mentality and unless Harry Redknapp addresses this major problem, we will end up with nothing again come the end of the season.

PoP10 – THE AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS

Answers by Chuck Lindo.

1. Why play music?

Nothing else can hold my attention

2. Who are your influences?

Gravity, The Beatles, Replacements, Stevie Wonder, Cole Porter, Little Richard, The Descendents, Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman, Uncle Tupelo, Socrates, Neil Young, Steely Dan, Cheerios, The Economist, John Denver, AC DC, Blood on the Tracks, Chicago, Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Leonard Cohen, Cheap Trick, and George Gershwin

3. What is success?

Continuation

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because they like listening to it

5. Who do you love?

My cobra snake necktie and my chimney made out of human skulls

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

I’d like to get better tables at restaurants

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Curiously, people enough like us to feel oddly familiar, but we don’t get bored or annoyed by them as we would if they truly were us.

8. What is your favorite album?

Really depends upon my circumstances and mood, but I can always feel good about playing Fulfillingness First Finale or Revolver

9. What is your favorite song?

Over the Rainbow

10. How did you get here?

Through a dank hallway, lined with fetid broken hearts and paved with the dreams of countless tortured souls.

The American Professionals’ EP – The Specialist – is out now.

Official Site

Myspace

PoP CLASSICS

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK Architecture & Morality (Dindisc, 1981)

My first encounter with OMD (like many other post-punk bands) was  the documentary Urgh! A Music War and the wonderful Enola Gay. I believe I purchased a US printed LP that compiled tracks from the 1st two OMD albums (purely for Enola Gay, of course) and then not long after that, Architecture & Morality, which was released at the tail end of 1981.

It is probably one of my favourite albums of the synth-pop era and to this day is an LP I can easily (and comfortably) listen to from start to finish – a rarity.

The album opens with mechanical noises, jangly guitars and jarring mellotrons before Andy McCluskey weighs in with his trademark awkward vocals. Like most early OMD, it is a unique combination of the bitter and the sweet. The quaint She’s Leaving follows, as the band demonstrates that it is as deft at McCartneyesque melodicism as any 70s powerpop outfit. Then Souvenir comes in to deliver the perfect sugar-rush with a truly memorable synth riff and Paul Humpreys’ fey vocals.

The beauty of OMD was that it was able to write experimental instrumental sound collages as well as hit singles. This appealed greatly to a music lover like me that appreciated the Beatles and Pink Floyd, ELO and Genesis. Sealand and the title track were great examples of this ability. In between, these tracks were two singles concerning Joan of Arc – both were top 5 hits – and together with Souvenir (which claimed the #3 spot) ensured that Architecture & Morality would be OMD’s best selling album (to the tune of 3 million copies sold).

For me, OMD was a fine example of a band that were recording for the sheer love of the music. The image of the band was communciated through stylish album covers (by Peter Saville) and artful yet infectious songs, all the while maintaining an experimental edge to their idiosyncratic songs.

The album closes with the bouncing Georgia and the thoughtful The Beginning and the End.

OMD would never quite attain the peaks of this album, with each succeeding album marking the band’s inevitable commercial and critical decline. Still, for having produced Architecture & Morality, OMD deserve their place in the post-punk hall of fame.

A truly essential album.

THE HOUSTON BROTHERS

THE HOUSTON BROTHERS The Archer (Chocolate Lab)

Yes, this duo actually consists of a pair of brothers – Justin and Mark Faircloth – and this six-track EP is a pleasing concoction of ambient country-folk-rock, informed by post-punk revival sensibilities. Therefore, resonating keyboards brighten mid-tempo rustic numbers like Confederate Dance and All We Ever Wanted. Elsewhere, the memorable chorus lines of Wasted Youth and Boyfriend will keep you returning to this enjoyable indie-pop EP time and time again.

Official Site

Myspace

Check the video below of Fallen Leaves as the Houston Brothers demonstrated their famous live act.