Friday, November 19, 2004
THE MOTHER- A Dark Trip On The Ill Tip CD
(Zer0 9er Productions 1998)
"When you don't particularly like someone, you will call him something like 'the sister' or 'the boss', so in a similar way, I chose the name 'The Mother'...", or so said Razali, the frontman of The Mother. Well, well, the band does indeed sounds like a culmination of bad childhood. And this Mother-ship will surely take you through a dark trip on the ill tip. Garnering slight fame after their sepia-tinted depressions on the "Flush After Use" compilation CD from 1996, the band has since developed their brand of dark and gloomy non-conformist shoegazings to new ill territories in metallic trip hop . Speaking of non-conformism, the band is an unlikely meeting of four musicians coming from very different backgrounds. Nigel Hogan is the ex-Padres guitarist, Nazim Mahat a metalhead, Bobo a rap-enthusiast and this Razali a fan of rojak.
They are musically influenced by The Smiths and Ned's Atomic Dustbin, but they have drum beats that has a distinctive Beastie Boys touch to it, and the string plays are somewhere between U2 melodic lines and doom metal. The opening track "Fooling The People We Know So Well" is an instant brow-raiser with its nusantara-moans/overtone, and the trippy beats. And the My Dying Bride-like rhythm guitars, oh my god. "Your Face" is quite a highlight on the CD, with its U2 jangles taking unexpected twists into an Arabian torch song, although not quite in same veins as the thorough U2 treatment on "Watch The Sunset", which is a very catchy, grooving track in its own right.
The other half of the CD is made up of "incomplete work" and "instrumental". I don't quite get the meaning of "incomplete work", since those supposedly half-assed tracks are running without glitches from head to toe, except perhaps sounding a tad raw and unpolished. Well, there is actually only one "instrumental", titled "Ecaf Ruoy", and it's given the "voodoo touch" by Randolf. Well, to tell you the truth, this "voodoo touch" is nothing more than "Your Face" played backward, nothing more nothing less! Uh huh, The Mother are a funny bunch.
A summation of the listening experience is an immense negative sensory overload, not in a bad negative way, but rather in a dark negative way. The Mother succeeded in casting a gloomy spell with their dark mongering and lewd fantasies (try to ask the band for their full lyrics). Well, when a band calls themselves The Mother, you'd have expected half of the claptrap up their sleeves. The CD comes as a heartfelt recommendation for those adventurous/eclectic listeners who don't mind flirting with a bit of darkness at somewhere near the ill tip.
--sojourner at 7:56 AM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
THE PAGANS- Stereokineticspiraldreams CD
(Tim Records/Odyssey Music Pte Ltd 1993)
The ethereal, airy voice evokes a Bilinda Butcher moment in an identifiable swirl of surrealistic art-noise, only that Morris is very much a male vocalist in the lineup. Well, for sure this "Stereokineticspiraldreams" is intended for a beautiful confusion, fury on collision course with seductive drift, an androgynous gesture of sexual rush of sound. The Pagans is perhaps one of a kind in Singapore, the few dreamy shoe-gazers that actually work fine in the not so poetic settings on the Singaporean shores. The band members were widely renowned in the local scene as prima donnas, and some people unwittingly dropped a Suede comparison but these guys are our very own rock dandies, with a well baked Singaporean accent to boot.
This CD is the debut, and the very last we're ever going to hear from this unique Singaporean dream-meisters. The CD looks as impressive as the band itself. Packaged with lush plastic sleeves folded over the booklet, with drawn psychedelic symmetry, this is a perfect dream treatment for a perfect rock band. Such designs can easily make the most unforgiving listeners swoon to its sinful aesthetics. "Prog-Rock Space Opera" takes lead in the trip, cascading phenomenally extraterrestrial guitar sounds over an impossibly dense soundscape in the parade of anxious drum beats. The monumental bassline and the second guitar complemented the contorted leads, so much so that Kevin Shield's presence is felt. But hey, what we've got here is dear Morris, Edward, Rick and Edwin. Well, Morris losed himself in this blurry orchestra of sound and he never once oozed a drop of machismo, because he preferred tip-toeing through the clouds.
When "Sandy Crush", "?" and "TV Babe" (this one goes to Jacqueline Meishi Schatz? Where is she now?) comes along, more subdued rhythm takes form and licked through fragile melodies with a romantic echo. Almost elegant, glittering with angel dust, The Pagans succeeded in pushing the delicacy of the songs with a non foreboding crush, that is heavy nevertheless. They traversed the same Utopian realms as My Bloody Valentine, but played a different kind of heavenly pipe. The urgent rush in other songs like "DHL" and "Precious 7" ride the same titillating waves of other shoegazers like Ride, with showy drumfills hitting each climax in the pulses.
There are additional materials in the CD to please. The last few tracks are taken from their cassette EP titled "Hideaway" from '92 (or fondly dubbed the tortoise shell cassette). The music here is less sublime, holds a better clarity, and some of it is way cooler and slicker than the full length, especially in the weary torch song "Gone", a melancholic crestfallen pavement walk with a touch of the detached British cool in the dissonance of the melodies.
The Pagans was a band that lived a bigger than life presence, and were almost set poised to deliver paradise with their otherworldly symphony, but their presence are never to be felt in the radiowaves, or anywhere in a closed radar range. What a god-damned pity, because this band can serve detractors of Singapore music a listless shoe-gazing.
--sojourner at 5:55 AM
Monday, November 15, 2004
DAZE- Sexy Little Boy/C'mon Allison MCD
(Tim Records 1991)
Rock 'n' roll never looked so good... this is sexy little boy". If these words still endear to you dearly, oh my you're getting old. It meant much more back in '91, than it does in this millenium and any bands caught attempting this line again looked as awkward as Black Eyed Peas doing punk recitals. But back when Daze made such exclamation in "Sexy Little Boy", it sounded like the very last breath of hope from the good old days of Singaporean punk/rock, permeating with enthusiasm and exuberating spirit of youth. Indeed, it gave a whole new meaning to life and music at that time. The bouncy delight of a hit that was "Sexy Little Boy" formed a cheerful brightspot in my hazy memory, reminiscing the days when us angst-ridden punk boys were prancing along to the catchy rhythms and reciting its lyrical prose. It might sound weird but the infectious song became an anthem to our ideals, to our dreams, and to the faith put in Singaporean music.
To call Daze a punk band is naivety at worst. This is a melodic post-punk outfit stuck with punk ethos, but they are not your typical run-of-the-mill Echo and The Bunnymen progenitors. Two veteran musicians consisted of the lineups, from Mortal Flower (Adrian Ho) and The Twang Bar Kings (Don Bosco Anthony) respectively. The aforementioned bands were big for their times, stirring up much beautiful noises and other mischiefs since the late '80s. This collaboration however did not led to a fare of The Cure vs. Sonic Youth handshake and subsequent masturbations. Daze had whimsical melodic guitar riffs played over a lively synchronized mechanical beat and with Adrian's deadpan vocal, and they could be way cooler than The Smiths, if not for the fact that many of our preconceived notions of Anglo-Saxon cool were already taking form. The best tracks like "Sexy Little Boy" and "C'mon Allison" subscribed well to the ingenuity of such delivery and they are clearly not totally subservient to overseas standards, but could be found breathing the kopitiam Singaporean style. The track "Marilyn" however, is performed with less concerted delivery, having only vocals sung over acoustic guitars and humbly recorded in Fort Canning with Leslie Low (of ex-Twang Bar Kings henchman/Humpback Oak fame) in the backpicture. This only proves that Daze was not all about lumbering around techno age although they could come very close with their "latest rage mix" treatment of their hit single.
Now, more than a decade after, this MCD and its sexy hit single has taken on more meanings, rearing a different kind of perspectives. Perhaps it has got something to do with age, but the joy that revolved the hopeful anthem has died, now sounding sad, futile and regretful. This part of the lyrics, "...I was once a sexy little boy, but now, I'm just an ordinary guy", has become more apparent, a bare boned reflection that once echoed the naive heralding of youth and Singaporean music, and its sad desperation has actually taken a real form. I can't help but now look at the music with a cynical angle, and saw the actual meaning to the message that Don Bosco Anthony and company were trying to bring across. In another word, like a chilling revelation befallen upon me, I know that I'm just an ordinary guy now. But at least I remember the days when we once embraced youth.
--sojourner at 4:35 AM