Sunday, April 27, 2008
VARIOUS ARTISTS- Left of The Dial CD
(Tim Records/Odyssey Music 1994)
Inspired by The Replacements' song of the same title, “Left of The Dial” is a local music compilation featuring previously unreleased tracks, better-sounding demo recordings and a few already released songs from some of the best Singapore indie bands around that time. This release should not be confused with another compilation that pays tribute to The Replacements, or the 4 CD boxset featuring radio unfriendly 80s bands. The name implies a jibe at how radio stations tend to conveniently “forget” to play local songs. It is therefore apt that the Padres' “Radio Station” is included here as an ironical tribute. Joe Ng made a statement with his sartire of the general attitude towards radio stations, djs and listeners with his amiably unstable vocals, backed by Ben Harrison's trademark expressive guitar riffings. Culled from BigO singles club MCD from 1993, this song is perhaps one of the most anthemic of that era, revolutionary.
Mortal Flower has came a long way since their debut demo “Bathing In The Perspirations of My Ideology” from 1989. Opening track “Atone” is very much the latest and last offering from this band, who had since shifted their style from more of a Cure-inspired goth rock to a more angst-ridden punk-pop sound. This song is supposed to be part of a forthcoming album “Unplucked”, but so far it's been more than a decade since we last heard any sign of life from this band. Sideshow Judy is a good band, but I have to admit that they sounded rather amateurish on “Spaceship Dog”, a track taken from their debut demo “Eye Matter”. Sideshow Judy sounds like a very jangly bright pop-rock bandl led by singer/guitarist Pauline Chong who didn't quite master enough vocal control on this song, which says the same for almost 90 percent of the Singapore vocalists. However her vocals has greatly improved over the years. Daze offered “Release”, a new song which is somewhat disappointing in comparison with their debut EP. I mean “Sexy Little Boy” was a very big hit, and there were many expectations heaped upon this duo when they made announcement of new material, hence the letdown, but this melodic little pop jangle is at least decent, though not awe-inspiring.
More disappointments coming this way from The Pagans' “Star Love”,which sees a huge departure from the heavenly atmospheric shoegazing from their debut. Although Morris' voice had improved quite alot, the music fell from heavenly grace onto more mundane realms. But once again, still a good jangle enough for appeasing curious fans. Things picked up nicely with The Lilac Saints' “Gina”, a very refreshing and beautiful ballad from a very underrated Singapore band. This song was earlier featured on New School Rock IV compilation CD. Lilac Saints never fail to write instantly chiming music that sounds so melodiously delicious. “I Love Singapore” first appeared on Watchmen's “Love” EP, but had since appeared under The Crowd moniker. Performed by the multi-talented Kevin Matthews, this song bursts with wry observations and sheer irony, driven by Ben Harrison's screaming guitar riffs of subversion.
The Ordinary People, how aptly named. They had this very down-to-earth approach to their music, which reflects well on “Shining Through”, a track taken from their debut album “It's A Weird Existence” CD from 1993. Nothing special nothing bad, just simple melodic pop rock. Now Livonia is a more sophisticated outfit. They have this special gift in offering surging melody that sounds cerebrally pleasing. “Backseat Star”, taken from their debut demo “Self”, is a perfectly written indie number that ascertain the good prospect of a band that even know how to dress to please. The Dongs on the other hand is more of a demo-level punk rock band with their “Rebel Girl”, a simplistic three chord affair taken from their cute looking “We Is Grunge” demo and sounding like a trisomy 21 from crossing The Ramones and The Dead Milkmen. The Oddfellows dug “Addiction” from deep inside their vaults. Originally a forgotten recording with just drums, vocals and guitar, additional bass and percussions were overdubbed at TNT studio to make a special appearance on this compilation. The last track on this compilation is “In Desire” by The Nude Pool. This band is made up of members from Mortal Flower, Raw Fish and Pink Elephants. This song loops a Er-hu sample, a chinese stringed instrument and managed to create a very darkly mystical atmosphere which slowly builds up in mental intensity. A psychedelic headtrip to end the compilation. However, there is alot more things going on inside this CD. There's two hidden bonus tracks on the compilation. One track sounds like Humpback Oak and the other is an instrumental version of The Oddfellows' “Your Smiling Face”.
I've shot down many bands on this release, but am I going to give up on "Left of The Dial"? Au contraire, this is one of my most favourite local indie rock compilation of all time. All the inconsistencies, amateurish arrangements and demo hisses make this one ever the more charming, because the sheer naked rawness of the material here oozes the kind of passion, sincerity and soul that is sadly devoid in this age of technicality and superficiality. These are bands that had over the years toiled hard to lay the brick on the Singapore sound and that by definition has certainly shine through in this release. A testimonial to the adventurous past of Singapore indie rock. And collectors, please do take special note that this CD is one especially tough find because almost nobody I know has seen it after all these years. Yet, the history of Singapore indie rock are all contained therein.
--sojourner at 8:17 AM