Sunday, July 29, 2007


Deserter’s Songs

The breakthrough album – although, possibly predecessor See You On the Other Side marked the Rev’s true change in direction – where the Rev applied its avant garde, psychedelic sensibilities to country-folk rock blues to deliver a rich, textural – albeit left field – masterpiece which together with the Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin heralded widescreen rock, building on the foundations of classic influences like John Lennon, Brian Wilson, the Band, Van Dyke Parks, Neil Young et al.
Songs like Holes, Tonite It Shows, Endlessly, Opus 40 deliver a ghostly Lennonesque presence aided and abetted by choice use of violins, double basses, flues, horns, whistles and saws. On the other side of the spectrum tracks like Goddess On A Hiway, The Funny Bird & Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp provide the upbeat pulse of the album and the balance that make Deserter’s Songs a thrilling ride throughout.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Fire Fight

I had the privilege of meeting up with guys from the Fire Fight and thoroughly enjoyed the two hours spent jawing with Josh, JBarks, Iain and Jon. As the interview proper is still in the works, I thought I'd publish the questions and answers exchanged with the band prior to meeting up.

Why music?

Music engagages people on a emotional level, which allows us to
connect to them personally.

In a cultural wasteland like Singapore, why not sports or studies or
misbehavior? And is music a passionate life calling or a casual hobby?

All the members in the band has a strong passion and dedication to
music . We don't believe that the artistic setbacks and obstacles
should be discouraging us from pursuing a career in music. No doubt
its a difficult journey where we have to find a balance in our daily
commitments and our basic financial needs. But we still believe in
what we are doing this for.
Well maybe we just don't excel in those areas (sports, studies, misbehaviour).

Is music a passionate life calling or a casual hobby?

Music is definitely a passionate life calling. We don't believe why we
should spend so much energy and time on meeting the benchmarks of
worldly requirements when we know that there is something bigger to
fight for in our lifetime.

Do you see yourselves still playing your music say in 5, 10 or 20 years time?

Of course! We hope that the fire fight will build a name in the local
music scene and hopefully still be musically active when we are all
60. Haha

Why play live?

That's where we can forge an experience with our listeners and be
physically available to relate with them. We love meeting new people
and friends and its only possible when we are around. There's plenty
to learn from others and we hope that we can inspire them in return.

What do you think people get out of watching you perform?

Woah, That's quite a difficult question to answer, maybe you should
ask someone who has experience the fire fight!

Is it about you or about them?

Its about all of us.

Who are you playing for?

No one in particular. We're playing for our hopes and future, for a
cause to inspire at the same time motivate and entice ones
emotions (positively) and outlook in life.

Who are you trying to please?

We don't write/perform solely to please anyone, but we definitely want
to send out a positive message through our musical craft. What matters
most to us is to see that our music has inspired others positively.
More importantly to instill hope for people to believe in.

How serious are you about songwriting/performing?

We are very particular about our songwriting and perfomance. The
entire proccess is a meticulous one which requires tons of commitment
and sacrifice individually.

Where does it stand in your priorities of life?

Below our priority of God, family and loved ones.

What do you have to say in your songs?

The context of our songs may vary. But ultimately, they are meant to
inspire hope and positive values.

Does your environment impact or influence your songwriting or is it
simply something you churn out - like a routine?

Our songs are not fully susceptible to environment or social changes
as we place high regards in the responsibility of our song writing.
Our songs are not meant to gratifying our own emotional or social

What does it feel like when a song comes together?

Its a feeling of fulfilment that you can get only from working as a
team fuelled by each individual's unique creativity and character.

You call yourself the Fire Fight - it implies a battle - to conquer or
to rescue?

To conquer and to rescue. Definitely serves both purpose of conquest and aid.

Does the Fire Fight have a mission? Is there a purpose or a plan - or
is it just something to do? Where does the Fire Fight stand in the
scheme of things - the Singapore music scene?

Yes we do have a mission. We together as a band hopes that our music
brings is able to bring about a positive change both in others and
ourselves.This definitely involves both a purpose and a plan. Missions
do not succeed without these essential trades.
Its still too early right now to be entirely certain where we stand in
the local scene. But we are definitely delighted to be part of it and
to be pushing its frontiers.

What does it mean to you to play Baybeats 2007?

We have been really blessed with oppurtunities so far. Baybeats marks
one of the highlights so far in our rather young journey as a band.

Does it signal arrival or take off?

Baybeats signals a prominent declaration of our arrival."The fire
fight has landed".

Do you guys see an album in your future - is it worth the time and
effort in Singapore?
We have plans to release an LP next year. Its definitely worth our
time and effort because its quite evident that there is a growing
support for local bands(more and more people are listening to local
bands). To maximize our effort further we would definitely want to
take our music overseas

How far would you go to become a success at music?

As far as it takes as long as it doesn't jeopardise our relationship
as a band, friends,family and values.

What is success anyways?

Success is measured not based on how much we achieved but on how we
have gained both individually and as a band. This not only refers to
our music as a whole, but it also includes issues such as our
individual character and conduct.

The Fire Fight seems quite prominent in the local indie scene at the
moment - how did that happen?

We ourselves are rather overwhelmed. We didn't expect our band to be
that prominent at such a short amount of time, unlike other bands
which had to go through a tough tedious journey before breaking out in
the scene. Maybe its because we went through about a whole year of
songwriting and rehearsals in the studios and when the time came at
the baybeats auditions, the final product blew the judges away some

We had no plans or intentions of 'exploding' in the local scene
through the auditions. We just wanted to see where we stood as a band
and just have fun at the same time. The outcome was really a big
surprise to all of us.

Hard work or good fortune?

Hard work.There is no such thing as fortune/luck when it comes to
music. We are all really tight on schedule as all of us are currently
serving our national service. Time is always not on ourside especially
when your entire weekends are spent rehearsing as a band and playing
shows. Not forgetting friends family and church commitments.
Occasionally we end up rather drained physically and mentally, but we
all know that through hard work,perserverence and dedication, we will
see results.

How would you describe your music to the uninitiated?

Our music is fresh, a unique form of indie music accompanied by great
amounts of energy and excitement!

Do you wanna inspire or entertain?

We want to do both. Music is meant to entertain. Inspiring people
comes from the message which we send out through our music.

If you could emulate one band, who would it be? And why?

There's no ideal band that can be emulated. There are many bands and
artists that have influenced and inspired us. We want to develop our
own sound and identity, at the same time meeting our goals.
There you have it, keep your eyes peeled for the interview piece to come. In the meantime, don't forget that the Fire Fight will be playing at Baybeats 2007 on 5th August at Nokia Arena from 7.30pm.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

We’ll Live and Die in These Towns

Finally! Apart from the Arctic Monkeys, it’s been a long long time since I’ve come across an album from a British band this strong. This is the Enemy, three teenagers hailing from Coventry who, like many of their peers, take their cue from the fecund post-punk era from 1978 to 1984. In particular, there’s no escaping a debt owed to the Jam, the Undertones, the Clash, the Buzzcocks et al.
However, unlike their peers, the songs on the Enemy’s debut album contain melodies that stay with you and a passion that shakes you. Anthems like Away From Here, Had Enough, You’re Not Alone and It’s Not OK will get you hopping and singimg along in full voice. The influence of Paul Weller cuts through most significantly on the title track where front man Tom Clarke sings, “You spend your time in smokey rooms/Where haggled old women/With cheap perfume say/It never happens for people like us you know” in a manner reminiscent of the Jam’s classic That’s Entertainment. Riveting stuff. All together now – “Away away oh oh oh away from here…”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Infinity On High

Generation gap be damned! What are the kids listening to in 2007. Well, indie is fimly the new mainstream – though I am not sure what “indie” means anymore. Fall Out Boy is one of those new-fangled bands that have successfully translated alt. rock into stadium appeal by injecting the right amount of blue-eyed soul, hip hop & heavy metal chops into its basic emo structure. With hooks galore – “The Take Over, The Brakes Over” actually sounds like Hall & Oates – and old-fashioned epic ballads – Golden is so trad it’s shocking – not to mention full-blown orchestral conceits – Thanks for the Mmrs – FOB tries hard to cross over on as many fronts as humanly possible. It’s listenable no doubt, but sometimes it feels too calculated & cynical to be true. And too many repeated listenings are not encouraged.
All is Dream

There is a mercurial quality in Jonathan Donahue's Neil Young-evoking larynx. It is at once child-like and wizened, it suggests innocence and experience and it is both strange and wonderful. Much of All is Dream, the Rev's follow up to the critical breakthrough Deserter Songs, bears these traits.
Recorded with the untimely death of slated producer (and longtime Neil Young associate) Jack Nitzsche fresh in the minds of the band, it’s hard to listen to the opening “The Dark is Rising” with its alternate passages of bombastic orchestration and poignant piano ballad without thinking of Nitzsche’s musical legacy, the combination of the ethereal and the rustic.
Much of this aesthetic informs All is Dream. From the epic and ghostly “Chains” to the melancholic dynamism of “Nite and Fog,” from the na├»ve and haunting “Lincoln’s Eyes” to the Lennonesque Broadway musical whimsy of “Spiders and Flies” the Rev tread much of the same ground as Deserter’s Songs but the embellishments are more ambitious with the closing “Hercules” clocking at just under eight minutes emphasizing the band’s quest to express the mythical qualities of pop music.
These conceits do not always succeed but you can’t fault the band from trying to raise pop art to new heights. A flawed diamond, if you will, but the attempt is enthralling. (A)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


August is celebration time for Singapore as the island nation commemorates 42 years of independence on 9th August 2007.

One week earlier (3-5 August) the young (and young-at-heart) will gather at the Esplanade to be entertained and thrilled by Baybeats 2007, a rock festival that showcases Singaporean bands.

However, the highlight of Baybeats 2007 will be the kick-off event – the legendary Mercury Rev who will perform for the 1st time in Singapore on 2nd August at the Esplanade Theatre.
As a lead-up to the main event itself, we will feature reviews of the last four Mercury Rev albums proper and hopefully we will be able to have an interview with Mercury Rev here soon as well.

Please return to this page for more updates.

MERCURY REV The Secret Migration (V2)

If Deserter’s Songs was Mercury Rev’s tribute to the cosmic Americana of the late 60s, then The Secret Migration is the Rev’s pop paean to 70s progressive rock.

And I am not merely making this reference only to the music with its allusions to Yes, (early) ELO and Genesis but also to the slightly otherworldly lyrics.

So Jonathan Donahue sings on “Black Forest (Lorelei)” – ‘If I was a white horse...and offered you a ride...Thru a black forest’ and it is almost impossible not to conjure images of fantasy novels but this time surrounded by a piano pattern based on “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” even as Steve Howe-styled guitar lines meander through the track’s inventive instrumental passages.

Or take the slightly offbeat “My Love” where sentences like ‘I hear of people living deep inside of the earth/They got their own sun and some claim they were here first/I've struggled with an old angel all night long/I thought it might be nice if you stayed here till dawn’ trade quips with reflections on relationships.

By and large, Donahue’s focused concern revolves around love and relationships without any reference to our modern world. So, it’s all about idyllic scenes, fairy tale settings and gorgeous albeit alien environments.

This is expressly beautifully on the ethereal and fragile “Across Yer Ocean” and in its lovely chorus, ‘And I bleed and I feel that it's all too real/On a wave of emotion sending ships across yer ocean/And I've lost all my reasons...but it's you I can...believe in’ But the Rev also realize the value of light relief and it provides one in the shape and form of the psychedelic jaunty “In A Funny Way,” with mirrored lyrics to boot – ‘Thru the fields an the streams an the lakes an the trees/An the grass an the logs run all my dogs/And I am home again.’ Indeed.

And with the 1:37 minute-long hymn-like closer “Down Poured the Heavens,” you’ll know that you have experienced something enchanting yet haunting. Kudos to Mercury Rev for this mighty step in its considerable musical evolution. A+

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


SMS? Well, it stands for the Singapore Music Scene and on these pages I intend to spotlight worthy bands from this little-known scene and hopefully other parts of the world will begin to appreciate what I and several others have been enjoying on this little red dot of ours.

First up, my good friends and soon enough yours…


The Great Spy Experiment (or GSE for short) is one of the most exciting bands in Singapore right now. Already they have performed twice in the USA (an achievement for Singaporean bands) – at the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Texas and the Singapore Day event in New York. And in the last two years, GSE has been garnering awards for their increasing popularity but most importantly the attention of music fans with their energetic hybrid of the shoe-gazing aesthetic and rock ‘n’ roll attitude.

Last year, GSE released their debut single – Class ‘A’ Love Affair/Captain Funkycurls – twin slabs of groovy shakermakers with heavenly tunes – and anytime soon, GSE will be releasing their eagerly anticipated debut album Flower Show Riots, and judging from the songs the band has been playing live, the album promises to be one of the best of 2007.

The Band - Fandy 'Carlos' Razak (drums), Magdelene Han (keyboards), Khairyl Hashim (bass), Song (guitar) and Saiful Idris (guitar & vocals).

Website –