timewellspent (Parasol)

You know, the beauty of our beloved art-form is simply this – we are not ashamed or blinkered to believe that there is anything new under the sun (to paraphrase scripture) – everything in modern music has a root in the past. Reference points and influences are inevitable, it’s not the form it’s the substance – the talent and skill lies in what you do with the tools every musician and songwriter shares with the weight of 40-plus years of great rock and pop music. 

Messrs Fundaro and Moll – with the aid of David Rubenstein, Jason Knapfel, Mike Federline and significantly, Thom (Pernice Brothers) Monahan on the mixing boards – have distilled the heady inspiration of 60s atmospheric baroque/chamber soft-country-folk-pop to deliver a stunning collection of songs that would sit comfortably with the discerning pop listener’s library of Burt Bacharach, Beach Boys (circa Pet Sounds and beyond), psychedelic Beatles, Syd Barrett, Zombies, Left Banke, ELO, Todd Rundgren, Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Beck, American Music Club, High Llamas, Mojave 3 and yes, Pernice Brothers. 

Suffice to say that fans of these great artists will find timespentwell an appealing proposition as Fundaro/Moll have succeeded at infusing their exquisite creations with the elements that they no doubt love and I’ll wager, you’ll have no problem being enamored with. 


Tonight was the night of wrap party for the Rock Your World series at Timbre @ Substation. I was looking forward to the good food and company. But apparently, apart from the bands performing I was the only invited musician that turned up. Wonder what that says about me. Sadly, the Groovy Persons who were supposed to come both couldn’t make it. Wonder what that says about me…probably nothing.


Whatever, nevermind. The food was excellent and one serving more or less satisfied my craving. The music was good with Jack and Rai, West Grand Boulevard and Plainsunset providing great acoustic entertainment. Jack complained about the nightmares he and Rai have been having trying to their album out. It’s been awhile and I hope and pray that the prolonged delay will be over soon so that I can get my grubby hands on a copy of In Stores Now. 

West Grand Boulevard is a popular rock band in Singapore and they are known for their energetic live sets. But tonight I saw another side of them that I really liked. Without the sound and fury, I could really appreciate the melodies of their material and loved the harmonies of Brian and Dharma. Good stuff. Plainsunset closed out the night with a clutch of their beloved tunes. Strictly Jon and Sham, Jon weathered the effects of the flu to turn in a competent vocal performance. You do know that the band has an album out now right? And you do know that its an essential purchase right? Course you do.

More than food and music, it was fun to chat with Danny Loong on some future musical plans and enjoying good conversation with Jon, a real gent and an asset to the Singapore music scene. The man has a solo show coming to the Esplanade Rectal Studio in July – more of that to come. A shout out as well to Jon Hemsley, Sameer and Ben and of course good ol’ Aloy. 

… and there’s more …



Mick Chorba (of the Dipsomaniacs) is the driving force behind this good time rock ‘n’ roll band. And if you hear tons of the familiar pop and rock references you know and love, then it just means that the Successful Failures have it absolutely right! 

The Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Replacements, Nirvana all knew how to pluck a sweet hook from dirty ol’ rock ‘n’ roll and it seems like the Successful Failures are equally adept at turning a basic understanding of pop dynamics into a deliriously enjoyable album.

Thus, songs like the tenacious Stop the Planet, the rollicking All I Can Take, the folk-rocking Bridge Over Delaware, the sultry Cobain-channeling Carolina (I’m In Love) and the Keith-riffing Never Moving Out all display a world-weary attitude that belies the sheer joy inherent in every groove.

Highly recommended for every card-carrying fan of garage, powerpop, rock ‘n’ roll! Yes, that means YOU!!!!


FOR AGAINST Shade Side Sunny Side (Words on Music)

Way way ahead of its time, this American trio was ploughing a lone furrow in the mid-80s in which hip bands like Interpol, Killers, Stellastarr* et al have garnered critical acclaim (as well as commercial success) for in recent times i.e. mined the rich vein of post-punk (especially Joy Division) and big music (principally Echo and the Bunnymen).

Never achieving a modicum of success that the aforementioned bands have been blessed with, the band has more or less been largely marginalized for playing the right music at the wrong time. Shade Side Sunny Side, the band’s seventh album is a reunion of sorts as returning guitarist Harry Dingman III and drummer Paul Engelhard collaborate with For Against mainstay Jeffrey Runnings once again to produce one of the year’s best example of post-punk majesty.

Simply put, Shade Side Sunny Side is a wonderful collection of evocative modern rock, often searing and visceral but sometimes fragile and touching. The piano ballad Game Over providing a intriguing mid-point distraction from the sensitive mood song craft surrounded by scintillating guitar work, deft percussion and Running’s ruminations on life and experience. 

21 years on from their debut Echelons, For Against has gotten stronger and deeper and has delivered an album that flies the post punk flag high and hopefully now, these true American pioneers will receive the recognition they so richly deserve.


DREAM BITCHES Coke-and-Spiriters (Recommended If You Like)

This New York band’s debut album – 2005’s Sanfransisters – managed to get Dream Bitches lumped in with the anti-folk movement, which of course includes the Moldy Peaches/Kimya Dawson. Sure, those quirky anti-folk ballads still find a place in this sophomore release viz. Bronxy Marie, Spoke on a Wheel, Sweet Anneth and Way to Go. However, the bulk of Coke-and-Spiriters finds main singer-songwriters Yoko Kikuchi and Ann Zakaluk attempting to break out of the anti-pop mould by infusing powerpop and indie pop elements into the mix. Doesn’t always work and the duo seem more comfortable with the folky ballads, with the cover of Belle & Sebastian’s Me and the Major being the high point of this new direction.


FROM BUBBLEGUM TO SKY A Soft Kill (Eenie Meenie)

Mario Hernandez is the mad scientist behind From Bubblegum To Sky. With helium-addled vocals to distract you from the purest pop melodies, not to mention a disparate array of instrumental experimentations, one might say he’s too busy channeling Brian Wilson and Jon Brion to care about irrelevant matters like indie cred. With dizzying speed, Hernandez jumps from genre to genre, hyperactively dipping his toes in every pop style you care to think about. Investment of time required to discern its goodies but in this instance, worth all that. 


THE PINHOLES Acoustic Sessions (Straits)

You might say that the Pinholes are a bit of an acquired taste. You might even say that the Pinholes deliver a better performance live than in recording. All valid points. But you can never say that the Pinholes give anything less than 100% in everything they do. And whatever they do, it’s gonna be F-U-N! Anyhoo, here’s the track by track review of this intriguing CD.

Never Gonna Take My Life

A somewhat subdued version but the melodies are really allowed to shine here, which is the whole purpose I suppose. Haffiz really sounds subtly cool in a track centered on defiant independence. More dynamic in full electric mode but the 60s vibe still breaks through effectively. 

Disturbing the Peace

The Pinholes go all twee on us with this Felt-channeling tune (especially Modjo’s guitar work). I just love the colloquial phrasing that Haffiz uses, a parallel would be Alex (Arctic Monkeys) Turner and his Sheffield brogue. Brill!

Who Needs To Listen?

And another twee pop instant classic with Felt again the prime influence. The guitar line is the star and once it gets its hooks under your skin, beware! Other than that, the song is a little repetitiously flat in parts. The whistling is pure class though.

Shake and Bake

Ah! If you don’t know what this song is about, don’t find out! Let’s just say that it involves a particular favorite pastime of young boys and men worldwide and leave it at that. Apart from that, it features a infectious chorus and toe-tapping rhythm and somehow reminds me of Madness at their absolute peak. Marvelous.

Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll 

I never thought I would like this acoustic version of the Pinholes’ signature tune but there you go. The pitch is lowered and the song is delivered in a very casual vein unlike the frenetic tone of the version done live. Still, you can’t keep a great song down – this would have been a big hit if it came out in 1968 instead of 2008. A tribute to the great Singapore bands of the 60s.


The first of three “covers” is this affectionate version of a Plainsunset song which highlights the latter band’s way with a tune – minus the original’s punk-pop envelope. Carries a odd Bee Gees affectation, don’t ask me why.

Handphones on the Dancefloor

Now, this is what I call a treat. Not only a Etc cover but features Ben Harrison on vocals and harmonica. Listen carefully to the witty lyrics to enjoy the full experience – “Did you come here to dance or to talk?” Hilarious!

Late Night Request

Ah, my favorite GSE track dressed in a sharp 60s suit. Kudos to the band for attempting something different with this iconic song. Well done.

This 8-track CD is a worthy addition to the excellent local releases we have been blessed with in 2008. Is it too much to dream of a fully-realized Pinholes album in all their pomp and glory. What do you say, guys?


ALLURA Wake Up and Smell the Seaweed (Aging Youth)

Truth be told, the first time I ever laid eyes on Allura (at Open Stage @ *scape) slightly more than a year ago, it was Inch that caught my attention with her stage presence. But in the last year or so, I have fully appreciated that Allura is a unit and a pretty impressive one. Mark John and Aaron provide the twin guitar impetus whilst HQ and Matt are a formidable rhythm section. Together, up on stage, they are a force to be reckoned with. But that’s not all, together they have also composed a clutch of songs that will knock you over with their maturity, sophistication, kinetic energy and sheer grace. This EP is one of the finest debuts by a Singapore band that I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. It is so exciting to witness a fledging band truly get their act together in the recording studio in this manner. 

Liberty With Wings

This absolutely soars from the moment the band kicks into gear. The ubiquitous U2 influence is there for all to see in a straight ahead rock fashion but of course it is the jazz-inflected coda that always sets hearts a-fluttering with surprise and delight.


I have had certain reservations about this song from the first time I heard it at Deafcon 5. It is an ambitious track no doubt with an attempt at the “call and response” motif popularized by emo punk bands – which still doesn’t quite work (personally, I would have simulated the crowd response but hey, it’s not my recording so…). The chorus is a gem though with Mark John helping Inch out with cool harmonies.


Ahhhh. This is a gorgeous song and is almost perfect in every way. It moves from an alt-rocker to a pseudo-gospel chorus and even incorporates a Beatles meets the Who bridge, which is literally breath-taking. It is a magnificent achievement for a band this young! Inch has never sounded better – showing the full range of her vocal abilities – spine tingling… perfecto!


Finally, a version of Closure that does justice to its potential. How does a song about a broken relationship end up making one feel so good? The additional nuances – keyboards (!) – really embellishes what is already a powerful sonic statement. I’ve said it time and again – Closure should be on heavy rotation on every radio station in Singapore and beyond! And is that Mark John singing back-up at the end. Priceless.

Well, that’s the EP proper but the band has also added the bonus of fan favourites Limbo and Ladeda. Both tracks reveal the band in early flower – energetic and forceful – but with hooks galore. It’s hard to believe how far this band has come in such a short time but these songs almost sound quaint and nostalgic. This is an essential CD not just for fans of Singapore music but for anyone who appreciates first-rate melodic alt-rock. And yeah … still there’s more… 




In a way, I must credit the Pinholes for returning this prodigal son back to the Singapore music scene as it was on that wet December night in Kuala Lumpur when the boys gave me a hint of the hope that still existed in the scene.

Anyways! I was stoked to realize that the Pinholes were slated to play at the Prince of Wales last night and made my way to the backpackers’ pub at about 9pm. When I arrived, I was greeted by Fandy & Huzaifah (GSE) and the band of course, and I knew in my heart that it was gonna be a fun night.

Already playing was young band Viva, who were opening for the Pinholes and it was Britpop 1995 all over again! The drummer probably needs to practise a whole lot more but overall I think Viva got the vibe, look and style down pat. Now for a couple of knockout songs.

But the main event was of course the Pinholes! With Shaq (Serenaide) subbing for Madir, the band launched into their iconic signature tune – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll. Despite the humble surroundings (you might charitably call Prince of Wales a ‘dive’ but it has intimacy and old-world charm going for it), the band really rocked out in their matching outfits and oh-so-cool melodies and hooks. Man, I believe with the proper production, they could be a massive mainstream hit! 

Haffiz did not have much room to work with but he did his level best to rev up the crowd and Famie was down with a bit of a cold but together with Modjo, the front trio was an exciting unit and delivered a high that is rare in the local scene. The by-now classic material was all trotted out – Never Gonna Take My Life, Shake and Bake etc – and a splendid time was had by all. 

After the gig, the band spent some time with some underaged fans outside to play them a couple of songs (unplugged) and you could feel the electricity amongst those kids. 

Truly inspiring. 

As usual, it was really great to catch up with the band post-gig for supper as well. Also cool to see Saiful after his holiday, looking very very slim. So thanks to Haffiz, Famie, Haikal, Modjo, Shaq, Asri for a great night of rock ‘n’ roll, Pinholes style!

… and there’s more …


Greenhorn Productions is pleased to announce Seattle’s DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE will be performing live in Singapore for the very first time on 12 August 2008 as part of a worldwide tour in support of their groundbreaking new album Narrow Stairs, which debuted at #1 on the US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart.

Death Cab for Cutie’s rise to Grammy-nominated rock quartet is one of indie rock’s greatest success stories.  This one night only Singapore gig marks the band’s first ever performance in South-East-Asia and promises to be a spectacular evening at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 12 August 2008 at 7.30 p.m. 

Tickets are at $68, $88,$108,$128 and $148 (excluding Sistic booking fees) Visit SISTIC (www.sistic.com) from 27 June 2008 for all ticketing details.

Pix by Danny Wright.


I wrote this song in 1993 and would never have imagined how the cost of living would rocket sky high in the next 15 years and with the price of oil at record levels now, well… it’s always going to be relevant.

This is the original version of course from the Death Valley 92328 CD that came with BigO magazine (remember when?) and was the second song of mine to be played on the radio. A little bit nostalgic as well cos it features my elder boys (now 20 and 17) singing happy birthday in the intro. I can’t even remember why I did that. But they’re cute, aren’t they?

So here it is for download – for seven days only. Comments please.


FLEET FOXES Self-titled (Sub Pop)

This is probably one of the toughest reviews I’ve ever written. Ever since I first listened to this debut full-length from Seattle’s Fleet Foxes, I’ve been wondering how in the world I would be able to string together a couple (or more) sentences that would do justice to this masterpiece! For a band to be able to meld the rustic melodic beauty of Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks’ Smile and the heartfelt echoes of 70s singer-songwriter movement, is almost unbelievable. 

But here they are, eleven tracks of magical songcraft, heavenly harmonies (even a cappella), inventive instrumentation all delightfully delivered by the talented tenor of Robin Pecknold. And it doesn’t even need a full-blown arrangement to hit you between the eyes. Case in point – the plaintive Tiger Mountain Pheasant Song, where Pecknold – only with classical guitar accompaniment intones, “Dear shadow alive and well/How can the body die/You tell me everything/Anything true”.

Truth be told, the gems are everywhere and the melodic creativity is limitless as Pecknold and co mine the rich vein of archaic folk and baroque music to produce an ecstatic blend of the old and the new. Best of all, as a rabid Beach Boys fan, it is fantastic to pick up all the prime references to some of the finest work that Brian Wilson ever put together. Along the way, there are also pointers in the direction of Neil Young, Peter Gabriel/Genesis, Fairport Convention, the Zombies, XTC et al. 

So, it’s suffice to declare that there are no duff tracks here as even the instrumental Heard Them Stirring resonates with such power. Push comes to shove, I would say that my personal highlights of this magnificent album would be White Winter Hymnal, Ragged Wood, He Doesn’t Know Why, Meadowlark and Blue Ridge Mountain. Which doesn’t detract from the quality of the rest. 

It’s only June but I’ve made up my mind – Fleet Foxes is the album of 2008.

Download – White Winter Hymnal



THE GET UP KIDS Guilt Show (Vagrant) 2004

Talk about feeling guilty…even before I listened to this latest album from the Get Up Kids, I’d already dismissed it as either overblown emo or over-rated old-school punk. WRONG!

The moment, track #2 “The One You Want” opens with its inventive blend of guitar crunch and soft keyboards, you’ll realize you’re no longer in Kansas, as The Kids deliver what can only be described accurately as primo power pop! Yes, boys and girls, you read that absolutely right – power pop!

And it only gets better…

The longing “Never Be Alone,” – to these ears – sounds uncannily like Squeeze for the modern rock era, with singer Matthew Pryor a dead-ringer for Glenn Tillbrook! I kid you not! The Squeeze evocation continues with the marvelous “Wouldn’t Believe It,” as its jauntiness and playful mellifluous makes a significant impact. The strident “Holy Roman” is perhaps the album’s finest achievement as Pryor waxes political but almost in frustration – “will you save us?”

The rest of Guilt Show keeps the momentum going as the catchy “Martyr Me,” the punchy “How Long Is Too Long,” the synth-pop new wavy “Sick In Her Skin,” the jolly (the very antithesis of emo-punk) “In Your Sea,” the hyperactive “Sympathy,” the powerful “The Dark Night of the Soul” declare the Kids’ arrival as premier pop artists of considerable power and significance. By demonstrating the ability to transcend the genre in which they made their reputations, the Kids have secured themselves a place in pop legend, with Guilt Show being easily their proverbial “Sgt. Pepper” – this might very well be the album of the year. Believe it!



WEEZER “Red Album” (Geffen)

I once commented that Weezer has not made a bad album. Yet.

Not that the spanking new sixth (third eponymous) album by Cuomo and company is a poor one. What it is – unfortunately – is uneven and inconsistent, not terms one usually associates with Weezer. 

Perhaps this disappointing quality has more to do with Cuomo’s decision to grant his band mates a greater say in the make up of the material here. In fact, the second half of this so-called Red album features guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Pat Wilson and bassist Scott Shriner on lead vocals. Also, Bell and Wilson wrote Thought I Knew and Automatic respectively whilst Shriner receives a co-writing credit on Cold Dark World. 

I’m not entirely convinced that these collaborations necessarily resulted in this dip in form for Weezer or whether Cuomo himself has become jaded of the Weezer concept. 

Still, the first half of the album contains a couple of tracks that live up comfortably to the Weezer legacy and the album does go a little pear-shaped once Dreamin’ makes its appearance. So let’s concentrate on those 1st five songs, shall we?

Troublemaker opens the collection promisingly with its sharp rhythms, incisive chorus and investigative profile of the typical rock star – 

“I’m gonna be a star and people will crane necks to get a glimpse of me and see if I am having sex and studying my moves they try to understand why I am so unlike the singers in the other bands” 

The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn) is what you might call mildly experimental seeing as it jumps from rap to gospel to to acapella to pop-rock in the course of its almost six-minute duration. Combined with a knowing, tongue-in-cheek lyrical intent, Greatest Man is certainly one of Weezer’s more intriguing songs.

Pork and Beans is basically Cuomo’s reaction to being instructed by his record label to write more commercial material for the new album as the cynical chorus declares – 

“I’m-a-do the things that i wanna do/I ain’t got a thing to prove to you/I’ll eat my candy with the pork and beans/Excuse my manners if i make a scene/I ain’t gonna wear the clothes that you like/I’m fine and dandy with the me inside/One look in the mirror and I’m tickled pink/I don’t give a hoot about what you think”

Ironically, the suits may have gotten exactly what they wanted!

Heart Songs is possibly the highlight of the album – a sentimental mid tempo paean to Cuomo’s influences as he namechecks John Lennon, Pat Bentar, Quiet Riot, Bruce Springsteen and Gordon Lightfoot. But Cuomo dedicates an entire verse to the band that kick-started Weezer’s career – 

“Back in 1991 I wasn’t havin’ any fun/’Till my roommate said ‘Come on and put a brand new record on’/Had a baby on it/He was naked on it/Then I heard the chords/That broke the chains I had upon me/Got together with my bros in some rehearsal studios/Then we played our first rock show and watched the fan base start to grow/Signed the deal that gave the dough to make a record of our own/The song come on the radio/Now people go – this is the song” 

No prizes for guessing who Cuomo is referring to…

Everybody Get Dangerous is a catchy little number about teenage rebellion – possibly based on Cuomo’s own life experiences. I expect it will go down well with the Weezer Army live!

Well, that’s all I really want to say about the “Red” album – a great half of a middling album is better than none, eh? Where does Weezer go from here – well, rumor has it that an album is being readied for 2009 even now. Wait and see I guess, until then – 

“Everybody get dangerous/Everybody get dangerous (Boo-ya!)”

The Incredible Hulk

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m … hungry” (in Portuguese).

If you’re a fan of the Hulk TV series starring the late Bill Bixby, then you will enjoy the various nods to the show in this latest film adaptation of everyone’s fave green behemoth (e.g. Courtship of Eddie’s Father turns up on Brazilian TV, Lou Ferrigno’s cameo, the score’s evocation of the TV theme etc). And it does so without sacrificing the authentic flavour of the original Marvel comic and it consigns Ang Lee’s version to irrelevance. 

The Incredible Hulk assumes the audience is aware of the character’s origin and in fact, is played out in the opening credits, so it jumps straight into the story proper with Bruce Banner (a phlegmatic Ed Norton) on the run from the US Army. The plot line moves quickly enough – setting itself up for the final confrontation between Hulk and the Abomination/Emil Blonsky (played with subtle menace by Tim Roth) – with little sub-plots (the tragic romance of Banner and Betty Ross (Liv Tyler, in usual wooden form)), the megalomania of General Ross (by-the-numbers performance by William Hurt) and the emergence of the Leader (camped up by Tim Blake Nelson) along the way to keep things interesting.

The action sequences are top notch and the CGI manages to keep the suspension of belief factor at a reasonable level. The film is basically everything you’d expect from a Marvel comic book movie with Marvel in total control. Meaning, the many references to the Marvel Universe will have the fanboys salivating in anticipation for that sweet moment when the Marvel Universe is revealed in all its glory in the Avengers movie. Of course, everybody knows by now that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) has a cameo telling General Ross that he’s putting together a “team” and that sets up the upcoming slate of Marvel films nicely.


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

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

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

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

Pix by Fir.


XTC  Wasp Star (Idea)  2000

Two XTC albums in consecutive years (Three if you include Homespun demo collection — I don’t!)! The last time that happened was in 1984! The last couple of years have been strange for fans of the Swindon duo (viz Andy Partridge & Colin Moulding) – the enforced moratorium on new releases lasted a full seven years whilst in the meantime, bootlegs of demos (for various album projects – one orchestral, one guitar oriented and even a bubblegum concept album!) floated around the fan community and a book, Song Stories featuring write-ups of the new material was published.

The heightened anticipation and expectation appeared to be satisfied as Apple Venus Part I was released last year to almost universal acclaim.

With the promised follow-up, Wasp Star, XTC abandons the orchestral/pastoral conceits of Apple Venus Part I and delves into uninhibited, unabashed guitar pop or in Partridge’s own words – “It’s great to get our hands tangled up in electric guitar strings once again…this record has more hooks than a Long John Silver convention…” A humourous quip, which may be said in jest but closer to the truth than one, would dare hope. Twelve fabulous gems in a crown of pop glory that only get shinier with each succeeding play.

First significant factor is the telling contribution of Colin Moulding. The tepid songs on Apple Venus Part I (Frivolous Tonight and Fruit Nut) raised questions about Moulding’s songwriting prowess but glad to report that based on the evidence on Wasp Star, the Colin Moulding XTC fans know and love is still in the saddle. The folky eccentric Boarded Up sounds like an outtake from the Beach Boys’ quirkiest LP, Smiley Smile; In Another Life maintains Moulding’s interest in easy listening music – the recurring horn/harmonica riff accentuates the song’s rather quaint concepts – “I’ll be your Burton/You’ll be my Liz” and Standing In For Joe (originally intended for the bubblegum pop project), a paean to infidelity, comes across like a latter day Genesis/Steely Dan ditty but works nonetheless.

However, as usual, it is the genius of Andy Partridge that makes XTC what it is – one of the finest pop bands of all time. Whilst the emphasis on Wasp Star appears to have been hooks, hooks and even more hooks, this approach has not been at the expense of Partridge’s familiar word play and wit.

Take for example the thoroughly infectious I’m The Man Who Murdered Love, which deserves to be a song played on heavy rotation over the air waves if only to hear lines like – “ He was begging on his bended knee/For me to put him from his misery/He hadn’t worked at all this century/Said ‘I do a service for humanity'” screw up the sensibilities of kids weaned on the blatantly crass sexual imagery of modern day boybands and teen divas.

Giving I’m The Man Who Murdered Love a good run for its money in the sing-a-long stakes:

(1)                The bouncy ‘lovers rock’ inflected My Brown Guitar; about Partridge’s obsession – “You want some lovely, I got some lovely/In my yard, in my yard/There be inchworm, there be football/There be yardstick stir some lovely/Laying waiting naked for you” – um sex.

(2)                The dynamic rhythmically driven We’re All Light where Partridge collects a slew of dead-corny ‘pick-up’ lines and delivers it like poetry – “ Don’t you know/’bout a zillion years ago/Some star sneezed, now they’re paging you in reception/Don’t you know/Jack and Jill-ion years ago/Some dinosaur dropped the pail when it saw our reflection,”

(3)                The dumb monolithic guitar pattern that is Stupidly Happy finds Partridge in dizzy celebratory love mode – “ And if the Devil walks updressed in any disguise/I take him by the collars look him in the eye/I’m stupidly happy/Now you’re my defense/
I’m stupidly happy/It’s all making sense.”

(4)                The semi-autobiographical Playground portrays childhood as a time where you “never stop rehearsing, rehearsing for the big square world” and shares with us Partridge’s darkest moment – “Some sweet girl, playing my wife, runs off with a boy whose bike she’ll ride.”

(5)                The ska-jazz Sting-like You And the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful is Partridge’s olive branch to his ex-wife – “We see flying saucers, flying cups, and flying plates/And as we trip down lover’s lane we sometimes bump into the gate/And I know thunder in your head can still reverberate/But no matter what the weather, you and the clouds will still be beautiful.” 

Every single one a potential hit single (in a perfect pop world of course)! 

Rather astutely though, Partridge manages to leaven the sugar high with well-placed thoughtful passages on his favourite topic – relationships with the fairer (or opposite) sex.

The rather painful dirge-like Wounded Horse once again concerns his failed marriage – “Well I bit out my own tongue like a wounded horse/When I found out you’d been riding another man.” Whilst on the other extreme, Partridge declares his worship of the female of the species in Church of Women – “Breathe ’em in until my head goes spinning around,” big sigh everyone!

With Wasp Star, XTC have made up for the prolonged hiatus since Nonsuch (if you consider an album every four years as “normal” frequency) both parts of Apple Venus had been completed without the considerable influence of Dave Gregory. Certainly the song arrangements have suffered for this, but speaking generally, Gregory’s absence has not proven fatal to the spirit of XTC. This is down mainly to Andy Partridge’s continuing belief in his art. There may be many “faults” in Wasp Star that detractors may make capital out of but in the circumstances and taking into account what XTC needed to achieve with this album, I would have to say that it is an unqualified success. 


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

My One & Only (from Democracy)

… still there’s more … 


PEEPSHOW EP (Self-released)

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

I Know

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


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

Funky Song

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

Come Back to Me

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

Special Someone

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

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


It’s the morning after and my head is still buzzing. Not from alcohol (really…!) but from the excitement of Rock the Sub. Mainly, of course, it was from the sheer fun and enjoyment I experienced from playing with the Groovy People at Timbre – packed with its customary Saturday crowd. But more of that later.


Yes, you know I love them but last night they managed to blow me away all over again with a scintillating set that included a spine-tingling Gamajazillion. This song is a unique proposition with unexpected chorus chord changes and a Beatlesque middle eight. Not your usual Singapore indie fare, I can tell you. Despite my usual reserved nature, I was screaming and hooting when the song was over. 


Yeah, you know the girl is one of my favorite Singapore performers but it really seems that she has grown by leaps and bounds (erm, not height-wise of course – heh! sorry, inch, couldn’t resist) and her vocals has really matured into a fine-honed instrument. The band launched its new EP, Wake Up and Smell the Seaweed, at Rock the Sub last night, and I understand that whatever was on sale was entirely sold out! No surprise to me of course. If you haven’t already, go out and get the EP in the stores.

I tried to catch as many bands that I could but as I was also performing it was a tad difficult. In any case I did manage to watch – 

Armchair Critic

This trio really does sound like a local indie band from the 90s! In essence a school band, there is quite a bit of potential in songwriting and performance but still have some way to go in execution. They possess good stage presence and are confident enough to indulge in a few gimmicks and tricks of the trade. If they can improve their songcraft, Armchair Critic will become a band to watch.

You and Whose Army?

With Adam in the army (the SAF that is – look, boys and girls, irony), Leonard subbed on bass and did a good job. The band did their best to deliver a tight set but were weighed down by technical problems. Still, despite all that, the band was good enough to impress me with the increasing ambition of their songs although the performance was a little uneven in parts. The band will be on hiatus with Bonk enlisting soon but expect them to be on their game at Baybeats in two months time.


With only Atwell Jansen remaining from the original line-up, Heritage still managed to whip up a robust set of classic 70s rock. With the influences of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and the best blues-rock bands resonating, it was a nostalgic for me (Heritage headlined the first rock concert I ever attended) and yet remains relevant in the 2000s. Inspiring.


The gothic style of alt-rock that Lunarin favor is not really my cup of tea but I will say that the band are possess a deft touch at delivering what would otherwise be “doom & gloom” music. Vocalist/bassist Linda Ong catches the eye – not merely for her hot goth-girl appeal – but also for her skillful bass playing. The audience was certainly impressed by the tightness of the band. Pity we will not be seeing Lunarin for the rest of the year.

The Groovy People!

Possibly our best gig so far and with six of us on stage, it was fairly loud. For me, it was a case of “Thundercats Are Go!” the moment I launched into chords of Never Liked the Beatles and never looked back. I’m glad to see that our cover of Hot Burrito #1 received a few appreciative nods. Dream come true, I can tell you. Of course, the songs that were universally enjoyed were the topical ones e.g. High Cost of Living, I Love Singapore and Gum. And of course, My One & Only… Thanks to the Groovy People viz. Benita, James, Bonk, Brian and Thomas for making it all possible.

But of course, the greatest buzz comes from interactions with great people in the scene – so thanks to Terence, Kevin, Seow Yee, Esmond, Poh Choo, Ivan, Thomas, Fir, Song, HQ, Zaki, Aaron, Mark, Inch, Joe & Adele, Kenneth, Florence, Sebastian, Spencer, Ivan (Thomas), Gerald, James (Woo), Pio, Linda, Jonathan, Melissa, Christopher, Syed (and if I omitted to mention anyone, my apologies) for a night of good conversation and of course, great laughs.

… still there’s more …


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

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

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

… and there’s more …


More belated reviews for overlooked 2007 releases.

SPOKEN Self-Titled (Tooth and Nail)

Y’know, I prize eclecticism in a band – you may have heard me say often. But sometimes things can get out of hand. Take Spoken. Half this eponymous album is pure screamo as the band rips through their Christian manifesto with inaudible lyrics (What’s the point, eh?) and the other half is fairly decent indie rock. Will the real Spoken please stand up? Guess half a reasonably good album is better than none.

FOR AGAINST In the Marshes (Words on Music)

A re-issue of a demos EP released in 1990 of this pioneering American shoegaze band. For Against was plainly ahead of its time maintaining a strange British aesthetic in the pre-grunge era. This eight track EP is highly reminiscent of the Brit-rock epoch of the early to mid-80s e.g. Comsat Angels, Echo & the Bunnymen, early Simple Minds, early New Order et al and is markedly relevant in the context of modern rock scene. 

CY CURNIN The Returning Son (Self-released)

Curnin is of course best known as the lead singer of The Fixx, a British new wave band responsible for massive 80s hit, One Thing Leads to Another. The Returning Son is Curnin’s 2nd solo effort and basically, it does not stray too far from 80s new wave gameplan. Loads of synthesized effects, odd reggae-ska beats and Curnin’s faux Bryan Ferry vox. 80s new wave fans will love this…

PACK A.D. Tintype (Mint)

A female version of Black Keys? Why the heck not, eh? These two “ladies” do earnestly ply their garage-blues-rock with the intensity of early Led Zep. I mean, Becky Black does a good job of channeling both Plant and Page whilst Maya Miller – whilst no Bonham (not even Jason) – provides adequate backbeat. Oh by the way, understand that A.D. stands for “After Death”. Guess girls do really just wanna have fun…


GARY LOURIS Vagabonds (Rykodisc)

I am a big fan of Gary Louris and his erstwhile band, the alt-country legends The Jayhawks. But even that allegiance did not prepare me for this astonishing debut solo album from Louris. Dare I say that Vagabonds is Louris’ finest recording effort so far, even outshining his Jayhawks work.

The ten tracks on Vagabonds perfectly capture the Cosmic American Music of the late great Gram Parsons, where the melding of 60s rock and country-folk was first mooted. It’s easy to spot the influences – Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills & Nash, the Band and of course, Gram Parsons – but Louris is the master of delivering a sound and vision that is at once timeless and relevant.

The highlights are plentiful throughout this gorgeous record but I must especially mention the Laurel Canyon channeling We’ll Get By, the wistful True Blue (that does recall his former band), the funky Omaha Nights (featuring kick ass slide guitar), the fragile To Die A Happy Man, the stone cold bluesy I Wanna Get High, the wondrously Dylanesque title track and the spine-tingling atmospheric D.C. Blues (with reflective organ swirls and heavenly pedal steel). 

Vagabonds in an instant classic and will definitely be one of the albums of the year. It’s often said that they sure don’t make things like they use to. Well, in the case of Gary Louris’ Vagabonds, they sure do.