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rock in the fine city
'80s-'90s singapore independent music archives
Thursday, January 03, 2008
WATCHMEN- Democracy CD
(Odyssey Music Pte Ltd 1993)

1993 was the year we saw the Singapore presidential election being contested. But alas what “Democracy” is here to stay but the power of pop from The Watchmen, whose name was inspired by Alan Moore's comics? Earlier that year they made their first CD appearance on BigO's “New School Rock III” compilation and had their brisk bask in spotlight when “Orchard Road”, one of the featured tracks was aired on radio and made into a music video, notwithstanding the fact that the mastermind Kevin Mathews penned his first music since 1979 and had released a couple of demo tapes, one of the most notable mention being the cult “This Savage Garden” demo which had garnered very positive acclaims. But what really paid off the twenty years of tormenting artistic accidie was a Perfect 10 Number One hit “My One And Only”, from this very debut album that I am reviewing. This song was the perfect pleasing paen of love in a simpler time 15 years ago when I was a impressionable teenager easily falling in love. While “Circling Square” had me falling out of love but enough of that. I can't name off my head any local songs even barely grazing the Perfect 10 top ten spots besides “My One And Only” and if it was that successful we owed it to the power of pop! Pop by definition means popular music and if Watchmen could make real pop then who really cares about the underground?

While most Singaporeans choose to make a premature drift into retirement upon hitting the 30s, the more seniorly Watchmen were only just reaching their musical primes. “Democracy” definitely sits well with the older music fans as they paid homage to the bluesy country/folk rock sound for a more jaded generation. However, this unit perfectly captured the timeless quality of those bands with a modern, even relevant gamemanship that stokes the good spirit of our heartlanders. Just listen to the upbeat Motown merriment and get versed with the quirky protest on the opener “The Highcost of Living”. Doesn't “the more you pay, the more you have to pay!” strike you all too familiar? This is up my alley! Watchmen are virtuosos of gentle and catchy incredible harmonies, and often time the music reminds me of a hearty cross between The Beach Boys and Elvis Costello even right down to the pitch perfect vocals from Kevin Mathews (who also just about handled most instruments on this album).

“My One And Only” is simply one of the best Singapore composition ever. But this album is not just based on the merit of this track. Indeed it is chock full of memorable songs. Most of the songs are rather light pleasant numbers that goes easy on the ears, like “Angela Part Two” (dedicated to Kevin's wife) with its bright enticing tropical-like winds, “Details”, a laidback gentle acoustic number akin to Gram Parson's country/folk visions, although “Mister Ong”, one of my most favourite track off this album carries a dark undercurrent which belies its upbeat rhythms and jovial harmonica punctuations. “Bus Funk” sees another side of Watchmen with what else but pure funk of the James Brown school while dishing out on an interesting ride on bus service 14 to selling away parents to buy a car, haha typically Singaporean. However, not all is bright and sunny on “Democracy”. “This Savage Garden” is a rather plaintive introspective number that meditates on existence and its equivocal escape. It starts out with a soundscape of ambient intro before giving way to 10cc-like piano keys painting the whole sound picture with a very foreboding imminent doom.

Just like the Force Vomit review I written two days ago, this album review is long overdue. “Democracy” is one of the best written Singaporean album that will sadly go into oblivion given the lack of attention from many of Singaporeans who don't care about local music, which is ironic in a sense that they had a Number One hit on radio, voted by who else but Singaporeans themselves. Anyway, c'est la vie life is indeed an irony. Like Singapore as a democracy. So don't take the album cover painted by Eric Khoo too're one squashed powerless mozzie in the face of tyranny-saurus rex.

--sojourner at 5:37 AM

Album Reviews

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