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rock in the fine city
'80s-'90s singapore independent music archives
Monday, January 02, 2006
(Coast-2-Coast Music 1994)

The debut from Concave Scream is built on an audacity not founded in an average HDB dweller. Concave- (adj) curved like a segment of the interior of a hollow sphere; scream and it will rattle louder within its dimensional constrains. The band had surprisingly gotten this far, after airing Democracy in a place where people are ruined by libel suits. But scream while you can because you are young and angst-ridden, which was very much what Sean and Pann were, audial terrorists of the lion city. Take a sneak peek at Pann if you can, and you may see a burly guitar executioner from the death metal band Silent Sorrows. Nevertheless my fellow mate Christopher Sia, who was also into all music subversive, passed this CD to me to get me off my death metal hooks and Ive been a convert ever since. Well, to his credit, he was the guy who took the pictures of the dejected duo in the album.

Concave Scream is considered a legend in the scene. One living testimony for the bands success is attested by their longevity in the music business. When all else fails, a band with enough intelligence to reject the norms of grunge and British goofiness of that time gladly took a trip to the leftfield and came back with some interesting colours. In the case for Concave Scream, they launched their painful ode to existence with the right kind of colours that do not include red and white. Yes, and heaps of greyness. Here, the band revisited the hauntingly surrealistic post-apocalyptic lingering of Joshua Tree era U2, coupled with the militant beats and hypnotic guitar melodies of say New Model Army. Sean also sounds like hes got a couple of Pearl Jam CDs in his collection, which starts a very spooky reminiscence in the hobo jangle of Cradle. Whereas Pann had his ghost of Slayer creeping up towards the end of The Last Song, which he failed to exorcise (hey, hes still sporting long hair these days). The drum machine done up here by Shue Mann didnt conjure up much power to do intense double pedal bass beats for a full metal treatment.

When it comes to playing out the melancholia of a creepy U2 and New Model Army, the band seemed almost like a complete genius/revisionist. The album moved at a heavy, pounding tempo with highly dynamic energetic rhythm, yet never vulgar or offensive, as the extremely well crafted lines run in perfect synchrony, with a very dark undertone. And the best aspect about them is, they wrote the songs themselves. Sean delivers confessional lyricism, which comes quite nicely accentuated by his cracking vocals which doesnt seem to go flat, but achingly belting out much pain and angst, sounding futile and hopeful at the same time, like a desperado at the Speakers Corner. Insanity kicks start the inevitable downward spiral, and upon hearing the sheer intensity of the song, youll swear that the barbed and concertina wirings in the album photoshot could have easily been taken from the world class institution in Buangkok View, Hougang. In Democracy, the vocalist muses Try to force us to our knees, we will never surrender. The spirit of non-violence was so cleverly spoken in a time when all seems peaceful and calm. Do you know what I mean? If you do and bear the same sentiments, let me know. At Erase, the band folded into introspective space and reflected upon a state of lost reality, with a very engaging torchsong which sounds quite apt in anybodys breakup. Take it that when people are young (like once they were), affairs of the heart did matter. The last notable mention goes to Futile, overflowing with ingenuity which easily ranks first place in anybodys heartspot. I have to mention this, because you dont get to hear such good music often, at least from a Singapore band. The first thing that strikes me is how sad the violin piece sounded. Here, Concave Scream employed S.C. Lim with her weepy violin playing alongside folksy acoustic guitar strumming, which kind of evokes the immortal spirit of Humpback Oaks Lucifer, but still. Here, the vocalist croons At the crossroads I stand, with no choices at hand/ Im close to despair, tell me when will this end. Sometimes when this is played to the right effect, you just cant help but break down and start breathing funny, especially in our dire straits.

Funny how I can still remember a middle-aged taxi driver uncle commenting about his future home when we passed by that world class institution in Buangkok View, pointing his finger at the complex and jokingly implied that there should be it. After which he gave me some scary statistics of new residents ending up there. His words were murmured, like screams curved into concave spaces, he Edvard Munch knows best. What you can do here is to let Concave Scream hit your stereo and vociferate to your lungs capacity while you can, because you are young and angst-ridden, just like yesterday.

--sojourner at 6:07 PM

(BigO Project 1991)

And then it was about time when Singapore music had to emerge from the underground. BigO was already heralding the wave by the power of media and 1991 was the time that they saw dividends in investing a fair sum to etch and chronicle the most important periods of Singaporean music onto a timeless platter known as Compact Discs. When the CD was first introduced, in a specially marked up issue of BigO, there was quite a fervent response from locality. The Oddfellows were already gaining notoriety with their infamous asshole song, which had a rather generous serving on the radio waves in the early 90s; Opposition Party were serving thrashing slews to the heightened ecstasy of rabid fans in many concerts and this Corporate Toil would become that thing known as Mee Pok Man and Padres. There was much feel of excitement and revolution, and this dynamo certainly paved way for that burst of local artists onto anticipating crowds in the mid 90s, the renaissance of the Singaporean pop/rock music. Never mind that it was a certain well choreographed business plan, it still have its effect in making a worthwhile mark and many a diehard Singapore rockers. Each of the aforementioned bands contributed two tracks to this compilation, which made up a total of 6 home baked numbers. Also notesworthy here is that the coverart was drawn by the impact artist Jumali.

Well, what better way to say Mari Kita than Patrick Chng spewing his homegrown whines. Here, the Oddfellows kickstarted with pop punk opener Lost My Head and that crowd favourite Song About Caroline, which was incidentally that asshole song I mentioned earlier. The Oddfellows were perhaps the most influential band to ever walk within the local shores, to the same effects of mentioning The Pilgrims of Malaysia, or Sex Pistols of UK. They were the first indie band to gain any commercial successes here, notwithstanding the fact that bands like The Quests and Zircon Lounge were as indie as they get. One can simply attribute to their simplicity in delivery, their catchy numbers, and the fact that their innocent naivety (or as it seems) in the music garnishes an instant appeal to the band. If its about Caroline being the asshole that she is, then The Oddfellows make no qualms with the exclamations. Their music is laced with memorable hooks and sing-along quality not heard since The Replacements and Husker Du, that makes great gigging material.

Opposition Party offered their sinister brand of thrashcore in two painful servings, namely Impending Doom and Crawl Out Alive. To sum it up, the band almost seemed out of place in this compilation, due to the fact that not even many fans of local indies can easily acquire admiration of metallic hardcore punk. To simply call Opposition Party a hardcore punk band is still largely an understatement. Their music is a metallic powerhouse charged with the spirits of Deviated Instinct.

Corporate Toil is the oddball of the bunch because they do not offer any rocking experiences, much to Joe Ngs regrets. This was his brainchild before striking Suede poses in The Padres, or flashing butt as Mee Pok Man. This band played rather cheap casio-sounding synth pop, with industrial beats and mandatory loopings, much alike a watered down version of Skinny Puppy meets a dysfunctional Coil. They came up with two tracks Hope And Requiem and King Eric. As much as Joe struggled with bad talents and off key singings, King Eric is actually quite interesting. It is driven by the kind of bass groove that compels you to put on a badass shades and swagger down Bugis street, chewing your badass gums. This song incidentally referred to either Eric Khoo or Eric Moo.

As always, true Singapore music, no matter how good or bad it is, gets right into the heart of the matter. For that matter, this was the New School Rock like the way it should be, because it had rewritten the textbook of Singapores rock music ever since.

--sojourner at 6:02 PM

Album Reviews

Anesthesia- Anesthesia CD Astreal- Ouijablush CD AWOL- Midnight In June CD Band of Slaves- 45 MCD Bird Brains- Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich CD The Black Sun- The Black Sun CD The Boredphucks- Revolution 69 MCD The Boredphucks- Banned In Da Singapura CD Chris Ho- Nite Songs In Day-Glo CD Concave Scream- Concave Scream CD Concave Scream- Erratic CD Concave Scream- Three CD Daze- Sexy Little Boy MCD Do Not Ask- Just Play It! CD Edgar's Fault- Edgar's Fault CD Fection Dasche- Eternal Transgression CD Flying Pills- Flying Pills CD Force Vomit- The Furniture Goes Up CD Global Chaos- The Art of Listening CD Humpback Oak- Pain-stained Morning CD Humpback Oak- Ghostfather CD Humpback Oak- SideASideB CD Humpback Oak- Oaksongs Boxset Impiety- Asateerul Awaleen CD Kelvin Tan- The Bluest Silence CD Lilac Saints- Awake CD The Lizard's Convention- Here's a Funny Fish, Hurrah! CD The Mother- A Dark Trip On The Ill Tip CD Mutation- Void of Disharmony EP Neural Vibe- Mantra CD The Oddfellows- Teenage Head CD The Oddfellows- Carnival CD The Ordinary People- It's A Weird Existence CD The Padres- BigO Singles Club #1 MCD The Padres- What's Your Story MCD The Pagans- Stereokineticspiraldreams CD Radio Active- Eyes In The Attic CD Starfish n Coffee- Ghost MCD Stompin' Ground- Measured By The Richter Scale CD Stoned Revivals- Golden Lovesongs From The Evil Island of The Handsome Tropical Cannibals CD Sugarflies- And That's Why CD Watchmen- Democracy CD Watchmen- Love MCD Zircon Gov.Pawn Starz- Follywood CD Zircon Lounge- Regal Vigor LP Various Artists- +65 Indie Underground 3 CDs Set Various Artists- Left of The Dial CD Various Artists- The Substation 10 Years & Counting (Rock The Garden) CD Various Artists- 12 Storeys CD Various Artists- New School Rock MCD
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