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rock in the fine city
'80s-'90s singapore independent music archives
Friday, April 25, 2008
THE PADRES- What's Your Story MCD
(Odyssey Music Pte Ltd 1994)



This EP by the Padres was once feted as the biggest thing to look out for in Singapore music. With a cast of big names like band leader Joe Ng, Ben Harrison, Patrick Chng, Evan Tan (and a host of ex-members who were just about the whole Singapore scene), “What's Your Story” would have seemed like the second coming, the great expectation...revelation to the radioheads in the island city. And mind you, it's Joe Ng, the Godfather of Singapore music whose lost, confused and sad puppy eyes belie the realistic business savvy opportunist. We can't blame Joe for his pretension nor can we fault his passion for local music, he had to play the underdog mythical anti-hero to fit the bill because it is always a romantic notion to root for the struggling bohemian and to that effect he did drew an audience to witness the motley of Singapore misfits who can rock. Joe was pioneering frontman of electro-gloom duo Corporate Toil in the mid-'80s before pioneering the alternative all-stars outfit of the Padres. To quote a response from Koh Nguang How, artist-photographer regarding this release, “I'm a big fan of Corporate Toil. To me, the Padres lack identity”, he actually said it quite right. However, while this is no David Bowie, the Padres made this a really fun record with alot of energy and sheer wit.

I love Corporate Toil. Industrial experimentations bordering avantgarde. They may sound like the most amateurish demo level band from the underground but they had so many interesting ideas that really sounded way ahead of their time. Now, Padres is your beloved indie alternative rock, a genre that molests the same three chords from the time of the Beatles and to quote from Bjork, it's boyscout guitar strumming rock. They made their first appearance on BigO singles club (in a different lineup) with an EP featuring two songs, namely “Radio Station” and “Angel”, which is a legendary release that stamped the alternative mark on Singapore music. “What's Your Story” is a vast improvement from the aforementioned, with exceptionally poignant performances from the gifted and musically proficient musicians.

The youthful energetic vibe here is satisfying. This EP is jangly, poppish and somewhat drunken, with the distinctive whiny voices of Joe, which is off key, tone deaf yet hugely appealing in an idiot savant way. It is like putting on the Pogues and ridiculing Shane MacGowan yet liking him at the same time. Music-wise this is your favourite alternative rock but at times it really bears the mark of Dinosaur Jr meets Jane's Addiction with its crazy twirling technicolour guitar swirls courtesy of Ben Harrison of Electric Penguins fame and the caffeine driven drum poundings of Mr Pat Chng of the Oddfellows! The MCD starts off with “Joni”, a nice mellow ballad which could have easily graced the Oddies albums. Up next is “So Sorry” which really kicks off the first sign of upbeat delirium. Here, Joe offers a sartirical scenario of guilt, regret and the excuses of life in modernity which evinces the impotency of the word “sorry”. “Teenage Story” is one fun song which is best summed up with the chorus, “When you're lonely, and you're horny, then you're sorry, what's your story”. My most favourite track off this MCD is no doubt the high energy charging frenzy of “Mary Said” which boasts the most insane slide guitar solos that squeals and screams so much life and mischief. The two aforementioned tracks were featured on John Peel's session on BBC by the way. Finally the MCD closes with an acoustic ballad “Whenever Her Heart Sang”, where I was shocked to hear Joe's voice trembles, almost on the verge of crying. Haha, emotional stuff.

Like Joe's prophetic words “We're so young....” (from Radio Station), this EP came from a youthful time of fun and laughter, peace and joy. Now those bunch of Padres guys are in or near their 40s and time still goes on, and we can only hope that the young at heart will take heed and never let the fun ends.


--sojourner at 10:49 AM

album reviews

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