By Sujin Thomas
+65 INDIE UNDERGROUND
IT'S the first of its kind for Singapore music, documenting 25 years of local indie rock.
And it has come at the right time too, as interest in indie music piqued in recent years. Called +65 Indie Underground - +65 being Singapore's country code - the three-CD compilation boasts 50 tracks from bands spanning nearly three decades.
Though not exhaustive, the usual suspects such as The Observatory and Electrico are on the track list, as well as lesser- known bands which made their mark in their heyday, such as Humpback Oak and Livonia.
But what makes this effort, spearheaded by Universal Music Singapore, so poignant is that most indie releases here are D-I-Y efforts usually only available from the bands themselves or at their gigs. Take into consideration that some, like The Pagans, don't even perform together anymore, and you get the drift.
It hasn't been easy for home-grown bands to catch mainstream awareness. But in the 1990s, locally-based label Pony Canyon, backed by the resources of its Japanese parent, released more than 30 English pop albums by Singapore acts like Art Fazil and Nuradee.
That reprieve, however, was short-lived and the label pulled out of Singapore, taking with it the dreams and hopes of many hoping to be heard.
|TRIBUTE: Fifty tracks from indie artistes - including one from Humpback Oak (above) - can be found on this compilation.
Since then, musicians have had to face a constant struggle to be heard and appreciated in a musical climate dominated by Western artistes (most of them commercial, too, at that).
Local veteran musician X'Ho captures this perfectly in the CD liner notes: "Is Singapore rock alive and free at last? Growth - with stunted roots - is surely a struggle, especially where a collective mind-set is concerned."
This collection, then, is a tribute to the struggles, and can be counted as a triumph.
There are some rare moments in the form of Corporate Toil's 1986 track Johnny Says and Zircon Lounge's 1984 song Guide These Hands.
Compilations may be a dime a dozen. But one which celebrates made-in-Singapore deserves two thumbs-up.
THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS
This Is War (EMI)
FRONTMAN Jared Leto's effort on the band's third album incorporates quiet to loud dynamics, with a dollop of dramatics.
Lead single Kings And Queens is an apocalyptic emo-arena rock thriller drawing influences from U2 and Queen, while Vox Populi keeps the heat with an anthemic feel backed by a choir.
Elsewhere, the abrupt slowing of the tempo leaves one puzzled, and somewhat dissatisfied.
CHRIS Brown's latest album comes on the heels of Rihanna's Rated R album. Unlike his former beau, he puts the past behind him, indulging instead in dance floor-ready hits like I Can Transform Ya and Famous Girl.
Did he hope that listeners would forget his transgressions by offering such upbeat tunes? It doesn't work. They are slick R&B tunes which captivate but only for a moment.
Dancemother (Love Da)
IF SYNTH-HEAVY tunes powered by low-fi drum machines leads to aural pleasure for you, this avant-garde New York all-girl duo - who play a show at Home Club tonight - should be on your playlist.
Devil's Trident is a trippy drone of spoken word lathered with frenzied beats, while the album gets a taste of strippeddown, bare-bones synth on Trilogy.
AUSTRALIAN-BORN Orianthi Panagaris has had her day in the sun playing guitar on stage with legends like Michael Jackson, Santana and Steve Vai.
But on her sophomore pop-rock album, she shows that she has a voice to match her six-stringed chops. She breathes Kelly Clarkson on According To You, while you'll get a taste of her dark side on Think Like A Man with its searing guitar solos.
For more my paper stories click here.