Saturday, December 26, 2009
VARIOUS ARTISTS- The Substation 10 Years & Counting (Rock The Garden) CD(The Substation Ltd 2000)
--sojourner at 9:18 PM
The thunderous clouds are always loud, the lightning a mere symbol to behold. The late Kuo Pao Kun is dearly remembered as a pioneering arts activist who brought The Substation, amongst many of his other contributions (more of theatre), into prominence. Founded in 1990 from a disused PUB power station at Armenian street, this community-funded, non-profit arts centre serve as a platform to nurture local artists for workshops, concerts, exhibitions and lectures, and it became the first and only independent contemporary arts centre. After he passed on, The Substation underwent a major revamp and the memorable colourful courtyard covered with shady trees where local bands once jammed their tunes to impressionable audiences seated and standing everywhere is now sadly turned into a commercial ploy known as Timbre frequented by yuppies and pretentious bourgeois bohemians.
This CD that I am reviewing is The Substation's commemorative tribute to the scene, and the bands who haunted the “Rock The Garden” era 10 years and counting, from 1990 to 2000. The liner have special notes from the great Kuo Pao Kun himself as well as our dear X'Ho. Altogether 10 bands are tied into the disc for the 10 years of great rocking, and albeit a seriously screwed up tracklisting on the compilation, any fan of local music can instantly recognise the familiar sounds from our familiar bands on the disc. This compilation is a fairly eclectic mix of new and old bands, and it covers across a wide genre from metal to ska, from indie rock to avantgarde. The CD features the following bands and their songs in the correct order: Fishtank- “Restless” (great laidback ska track with very gelek trumpeting), Nuradee- “I'll Remember” (folksy roots ballad), Humpback Oak- “Normanton Park” (the legends's song with an uncanny semblance to Red House Painters' “Grace Cathedral Park), The Ordinary People- “Big Surprise” (brash, energetic indie rock from another legend), Plainsunset- “Priorities” (indie punk rock), The Edge- “Funk It Up” (brilliant metallic funk rock ala RHCP), Concave Scream- “Fiction” (brilliant fret taps and cool U2 vibe from our local legend), One Man Down- “Forsaken” (grating angsty raw nu-metal), The Oddfellows- “Lost My Head” (cult cult live performance from the godfathers of Singapore indie rock), and last but not least Corporate Coil- “Hokkien Girl Blues” (noise, artistic noise from the legends!).
The current S-rockers and their proponents, groupies and managers can “Rock The Sub” in all its pomposity; for those who remember, the spirit of Singapore music as a creative force of a native, as opposed to national would find meaning in “Rock The Garden” of the '90s, an exciting passionate time of the past where the vital interactions of Singapore music and their audience came alive in a spirited firework that short circuited and started a bonfire. I was this anonymous teenager in flannel shirt seated right at the back of the garden, a distance away from the frenzied crowds doing half-baked moshings and secretly pulling a bodysurf every now and then. I've witnessed showy bands, favourite ones, mediocre ones, hopeless ones, technical faults, crazy antics, crazy groupies, rabid responses, accidents, tauntings, cold treatment, total moshing and illegal stuffs, in the cool airy proximity at the foot of Fort Canning where you can kick back, drink some beer and smoke all you want with a good view, brilliant sound and excellent ambience. What great fond memory. This CD will bring you nostalgia-heads back to the aforementioned.