Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Susuk" - film review

After probably 2 years of waiting, Susuk finally makes its way to our cinemas. At first I thought it'd already met with the same horrible fate that befell Dukun. But lucky for us, it's finally here! I've pretty high hopes for this film, since I'm quite fond of Amir Muhammad's debut film, Lips To Lips, and his docus like The Big Durian and Lelaki Komunis Terakhir.

One thing I must commend the film for is the slick visual style, and the script's very clever structure. No, make that especially the structure! It's very rare (in my case, it might even be the first time) to encounter a Malaysian film with that big "twist ending" ala The Crying Game, The Sixth Sense, The Game (just to name a few films). If you've been paying attention to the happenings in the story (and believe me, they do give you plenty of clues!), then it's even more enjoyable viewing, just to see the pieces fall into place. So I won't really try to provide a synopsis since it's one of those "don't reveal the ending" films.

What lets the film down though, is the shocking/scaring you part. Yes, it's very bloody and gory, and you do see some Dario Argento influence in the art direction and lighting (as pointed out by a lot of reviewers), but let's be honest here, when has ANY film by Dario Argento ever been scary? To me, the marvel in watching Argento's films is in watching the technique, the over the top colours in the art direction, the fancy camera movements and angles, and the hilariously horrible music used as cues to shock us. The acting and script in all the Argento films have always been serviceable at best, the acting even worse. And there's usually no suspense whatsoever, just shocks/surprise. Like Hitchcock once said: "A bomb explodes - that's surprise. Knowing that there's a bomb that may or may not explode - that's suspense." And for much of Susuk, what you always get are shocks/surprises, never suspense. And to me, what really makes a great horror film is the suspense. The shocks/surprises just make me laugh...

Another letdown is that I get really confused trying to figure out what Susuk wants to be. At times, you KNOW that it's sort of a satire on our celebrity obsessed culture, and things we do to even get close to fame. At other times, it seems more like the filmmakers are playing it absolutely straight and actually do want to make a straight horror film, and scare the bejeezuz out of us. By the end of the film, the impression I did make was that it was sort of a mess.

On one part the structure's quite brilliant, the acting mostly solid, with the exception of the boyfriend (sorry Gambit, still a bit kayu!), and the 2 divas played by Sofea Jane and Aleeza Kassim (but I forgive Aleeza already, for that priceless swimming pool scene, and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it verbal reference to her character's sexuality! Hehehe). Even Ida Nerina's kinda suspect behaviour/acting during the early to middle part of the film ultimately made sense by the time the film ends, such is the attention to detail about the film's structure. And don't even get me started about how kickass the scene transitions are in the film! Really, really well thought out in advance!

But it's the believability of the whole thing that bogs the film down. For all the talk about how great a diva Suzana and the 2 other divas are, the songs they sing are just plain bad, even for mainstream Malay music standards. One might try to make a case by saying that the badness of the songs is part of the satire, but if you ask me, that's just plain cheating. Even the Josie And The Pussycats movie have hilarious but absolutely believable and strong songs for the parodied boyband in the film. Let's not even get started about how great the 'satirical' or 'parody' songs are on films like A Mighty Wind, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and of course This Is Spinal Tap. Unless, and this is a big unless, the bad songs here serve to show us the power of the susuk, that is that people will be fixated with you anyway, even if your songs are bad and your singing sucks. But I seriously don't get that impression when I was watching the film.

And so we get another half-half Malaysian film. Half of it's already well done, and close to brilliant, but the other half, by second-guessing themselves, or maybe even not thinking things up fully, end up making it a weaker film than it should've been. It could've been a real scorcher, a sort of brilliant kick up the ass of the Malaysian film industry like "Perempuan, Isteri dan ..." did back in the 90s, but I guess it's never meant to be...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the indie music revolution in malaysia (part 2) - what next?

A perceptive reader asked a very good question when he commented on my previous post regarding the indie music revolution currently happening in Malaysia. Here's the comment by Danial:

"Since the second-half of 2007 was the beginning of our indie explosion & it continues to bloom now in 2008 (with once there was four gigs during the weekend, it was hard to choose which one to go!), what would you hope the future of this scene will be, say in 2009?

Are we gonna be stuck in organizing gigs & concerts (it's now getting bigger: RockOnRave & KL Indie Fest) all year long or is it high-time for us to start the initiative in spreading this thing for the whole nation (& the world) to see i.e. taking it to the next level?

What I would love to see is that we set-up our very own indie radio station. Yes. Call it Radio Indie Malaysia (the abbreviation would be RIM, *snicker*) or something. We'll just play music from our local & international independent bands: it'll be some sort of a platform for these musicians to get their music heard for the masses. It'll be OUR alternative media for those discontented "listening public". Who needs the old order? Why not make our own industry?"

Well Mr Danial, I do agree with you on one point, that is we simply need to have our own 'industry' (if that's the correct way to put it), and that we don't need the old order after all. What I'm not so sure we should do is to go about it the same way the industry's been doing it all these years.

Let's not forget that the main reason the scene's got this far so far is the democratization of everything by the internet. The radio, TV and press only took notice when there's already word spreading around on the internet by the kids.

I was involved in an "Indie vs. Mainstream" debate on Xfresh FM last night, which frankly (and thankfully) was not much of a debate, and more like a friendly chat discussing what "mainstream" and "indie" means. I, for one, have never been interested to show nor explain why the things I like are better/superior than others, because frankly I don't think that what I like is better/superior than others. I just like 'em, and that's it. And if I'm not into what you're doing, well it's just not my cup of tea, that's all.

Since what's been happening with the indie explosion over here is more or less an organic word-of-mouth thing, I honestly think we should just let it develop the exact way it's started, i.e. organically. More exposure on the radio/TV is just an old mainstream strategy. There have always been radio shows playing "indie" music for years now, but they almost always get cancelled after, at most, 3 years. Why? Because radio depends on sponsors/advertisement, who look at ratings to make their decision, and "indie" radio shows are never meant to attract to high ratings. Unless you play popular "indie" rock tunes, which the normal radio shows will play anyway. It's a game countless people have played, and it's a game designed to not let the indie kids win.

If survival is hard enough for "indie" radio shows, survival for an "indie" radio station over here is really a futile question, unless we get a rich sugardaddy to finance the whole operation. Now that's a different question!

So really, we don't need to do things the way the mainstream's been doing it. We don't need to have our own radio station. We don't need to have our own TV station, or our own newspaper/magazine. All these things cost a lot of money to even start, and when big money comes into the equation, corporate considerations will also come into the picture. And whenever the word "corporate" is in the picture, you'll only get watered down versions of your original intentions. And watered down indie is never, ever a good thing.

Come to think of it, actually the indie kids DO have their own radio station already, and it's called the internet. We DO have our own newspaper/TV media channel already, and it's called the internet. We can now make our own listening playlist, and find the music we like by ourselves, without any need for any DJs or radio programmers to shove music down our throats. We can deliver news our own way through the internet. Heck, we can even make our own news!

Don't have any "cable" to get noticed? Well go make your own "cable". We have the internet now, so go make friends with people out there. With so many social networking sites available now like Myspace, Facebook, Friendster etc, why limit yourself to just using them to flirt or find dates?

What we do need to think about to go to the "next level" is just to come up with the goods. Keep on writing and recording great songs that people can connect with. You can have all the platforms you want, but without the "goods", you won't get anywhere anyway. So just deliver the goods, and somehow, someway, you'll find yourself going to the "next level".

To me, the beauty of this whole "indie" revolution is that it is more or less like watching democracy at work, manifesting itself in its purest form. It's a revolution by the people, for the people. And it leaves the establishment and the system out of the equation entirely.

What happens next is all up to you kids to decide. But if I were to have any say in it, just don't forget this: "If it ain't dumb, it ain't rock n roll!!"

Saturday, June 07, 2008

how to form a band (and not kill each other doing it)

A lot of you kids have been asking me for tips on a lot of things, how to get a band started, how to get gigs, how to write songs and many others. Now I'm in no way an expert at these things, not even close, but I guess it won't be wrong if I write about what I think is the decent way to go about doing it. So here it goes:

1. Ask yourself WHY you wanna do this in the first place
This is a very important question to ask yourself, because the way you approach things will no doubt differ according to the reasons why you wanna do this. If you're thinking of becoming popular or a star in a short time, then maybe forming a band is not such a good idea, as personally I think it's a long, hard road, for most bands anyway. If becoming a star in record time is your reason, then it's not something I know how to do, as Couple's been around for 13 years now, and we're still nowhere near being stars! So maybe taking part in a talent/reality TV show might be a good idea. Hehe. But if your reasons include love of music, or a need to express yourself, or just to enjoy making music with friends, or by yourself, and playing live, and sharing an adventure, then let's proceed to the next question.

2. Ask yourself what do YOU like?
Some bands have democratic aspirations, yes, but I think it's normal for most bands to have one person, or at the most 2 persons, as the creative drive behind them. So, to these persons I'd advice them to just follow their hearts. I know a lot of people will answer, "I listen to everything", when asked about the music they like. But c'mon, even parents have a favourite child (even if they'll never admit it in public). So, be honest, and ask yourself what sort of music/genre(s) YOU like, and then go through with it. Remember the answer to Question 1 above? You're doing this for YOU, so have some balls and stick your neck out and show to the world - "This is what I love, and therefore this is the music I'm making - this is ME." Only then will your band have any shot at longevity, as only people who really love what they do will keep on doing it regardless of whether their band is successful/popular or not.

3. Do your research
Now that you've decided on what you like, delve into it wholeheartedly. Know it as best as you can. Devour as much as you can. Know/understand what makes you like it. Get a feel of how the songs are constructed. Explore the hallmarks and nuances of the genre(s). Better still, dive headfirst into music history. Make it a point to know as much as you can about as many genres of music as you can. At least that way you won't fall flat on your face, as you're less likely to proclaim that what you're doing is something 'new' or 'original' because the more you delve into music history, the more you'll realise that everything's  been done before. But don't worry, that doesn't mean that today's music is worthless, because you just need to realise that there's a world of difference between paying tribute to/getting influenced by someone and plagiarism. Just be true to yourself, do what you truly love, and you'll be fine. Don't burden yourself with all this lofty, big ideas about creating something 'new', 'original' or 'fresh'. Leave that kind of worrying to pompous assholes who think so highly of themselves that they think that everything they do must/should change the world. Music is a reflection of your soul, and if you're true to yourself whilst making it, it will come out, and that reflection of your soul in the music you make is already something unique only to you. What more do you want?

4. Be humble (Part 1)
Being in a band, like it or not, is an ego game. So don't forget to be a human being. And don't forget that your bandmates are human beings too. Never forget that at the end of the day it's your band's 'sound' that people will remember and pay attention to first, not how great the lead guitarist, or the bassist, or the drummer, or the singer is. Depending on the kind of music you do, some players might have to restrain themselves more than others, in order to serve the band's 'sound'. Maybe less guitar wanking is needed in certain genres, or minimalist drumming needed in others, so I'm sure there will be some people in this sort of situations who might think they're better than all that. That is why it's very important to do your research, so that you'll understand the fundamentals of what you want to do better. Always remember that it's the BAND that's most important, not the members. So be humble, and don't be selfish, as the band is not yours alone. If you still think you're better than the band, then quit that band and form your own band, one that you think can better serve your skills.

5. Know your strengths and weaknesses
Again, be honest to yourself and humble enough to admit what your weaknesses are. And of course, be humble enough not to overestimate your strengths. When you start jamming with your bandmates, pay attention to each other. Try to notice each one's playing style. Make a mental note of what each person's strengths and weaknesses are. Better still, talk about it with your bandmates. That way, you can write and arrange songs around that. Accentuate your strengths, and minimise or try to avoid the weaknesses altogether. The most important thing about a band is that it has to be tight. A tight as hell band playing the simplest of music is still a million times better than a loose, all over the place band playing 'complicated' music. Going about being in a band is not so different from going about living your life. If you're weak physically but are excellent with numbers, which would you choose, being a rugby player or mathematician? Easy, right? So, just apply that same logic when you're in a band!

6. Know when you're ready
This is the most crucial part. You've now written your own songs. You've been jamming a lot. What next? This is where you really have to be honest with yourself, AND ask your friends to be honest with you. Maybe you can demo some songs and listen carefully at home, or give some to your friends for them to listen to. The most important thing is to really decide whether the material you have or your live performance skills are good enough to be unleashed to the world. Put yourself in the shoes of the listener. Ask yourself, if you're a listener and you heard the songs, would you get excited by them? If you're the audience and you're watching your band's performance of the songs, would you like it? If you think there's still work to be done after you asked yourself those questions, then by all means do work on it. There's no hurry whatsoever to introduce your band to the world. Most of us get only ONE chance to impress, so make the best first impression you can. A great first impression will surely lead to something. Luck may have something to do with it, but I honestly think there's no such thing as blind luck. I heard this great phrase in a documentary: "Luck is when opportunity meets preparation." And I really think that's true.

7. Be humble (Part 2)
Like I said above, playing music is almost always all about ego. You might start out just to have fun with friends, but what happens when you suddenly have 'fans'? Egos can easily inflate, and when they do you can easily lose sight of things. So, always remember WHY you're doing this in the first place. Again, your answer to Question No. 1 above is very, very important.

So, there it is kids, a simple guide on how to form a band, and not kill each other doing it! I hope it'll help a little bit. Maybe I'll do another post next about how to get gigs or how to 'up' your band? Hehehehe.

Friday, May 16, 2008

the indie music revolution in malaysia

There's quite a lot being written about this whole 'indie music revolution' currently taking place in Malaysia. From bloggers to newspaper writers, everyone's saying their piece. I'm not in the business of predicting which bands/acts will make it big this year or next year, so this piece will avoid all that. What I'm interested in is why it's taking place now, and not 2 years ago, and not next year.

If you ask me, I think it's a combination of a lot of things. People always say that a country's progress is always reflected by its arts scene. And I'm sure it's no mere coincidence that this whole indie revolution is happening just as the Malaysian political landscape is experiencing its own seismic shift in its make-up. In fact, one would have to be very naive to not want to draw parallels between the two.

For my money, this whole shift is a direct result of us everyday people having more options when it comes to access to information, thanks to increased easy access to the world wide web. Politics-wise we people have far more places to go to when it comes to getting our news. The mainstream newspapers/television/radio no longer have a monopoly on the opinions of us everyday people.

By that same analogy, us everyday music loving kids no longer have to depend on mainstream radio/television to tell us who to listen to or to like. There's Myspace, iMeem, Last FM and all sorts of social networking sites and file sharing sites where us kids can simply discover all sorts of music.

However, easy access alone is no cause for a revolution. Discontent is. For far too long we've been bombarded by average, unremarkable music, pushed down our throats through the radio & TV by the record companies in Malaysia. Full of A&R people who have totally lost touch with what the kids want from Malaysian acts, they stubbornly refuse to mix in with the grass roots and instead try to clone whatever Indonesian acts that make it big over here. People talk about how A&R people should have their finger on the pulse of the music scene. I doubt they even have that finger, let alone know where that pulse is.

We keep on hearing complaints by music industry people of how harmful this 'Indonesian invasion' is, but it's a problem they create themselves. Isn't it obvious by how successful the Indonesian bands are here that the public wants something fresh and different? Isn't it very obvious that Dewa, Sheila On 7, Padi, Peter Pan, Samsons and Nidji are obviously very different and obviously fresher-sounding than Search, Wings, Jinbara, Amuk, Spider, New Boys and the like? But why keep on pushing more rock kangkang and rock leleh Malaysian bands down our throats when it's so obvious that the public wants something else?

And no, don't tell me that there are no Malaysian bands that have that 'fresh' sound. Even before this whole indie music revolution we already have OAG, The Times and to a lesser extent Exists doing their own thing singing in Malay. Butterfingers also came up with a Malay album that's as un-rock kangkang and un-leleh as they come. With the exception of OAG and Exists, radio support for our own 'new school' bands are almost non-existent. So, it's not just the labels but also the radio that has to take their fair share of the blame.

What about the local awards like the AIM? Why is it that year after year, the nominees and winners never seem to involve this whole 'new school' Malaysian bands? The answer is simple, to enter your album to be considered for nomination in the AIM, one has to be a member of RIM first, and that my friends involve membership fees that are quite prohibitive (around RM3ooo, if I'm not mistaken) if you're an unsigned, struggling indie band. So in reality what the AIM does reflect is that portion of the Malaysian music industry that can afford to pay the RIM membership fees, which probably explains why the more 'urban' (i.e. more affluent) acts are the ones who usually get nominated and win. Which will also explain why non-urban acts like my band Couple will probably never ever get an AIM nomination. Hehehe.

And then there's the TV series Kami, and the meteoric rise of Meet Uncle Hussein and most importantly, Hujan. This small TV series and these 2 small bands basically destroyed all the safeguards and barriers previously put up by the major label cartel and the mainstream media in Malaysia. What basically happened was that a lot of denials and pride had to be swallowed, as these 3 phenomenons, no matter how 'budaya barat' they are (as the elders and the mainstream will always say whenever they don't understand something), are just too important and too big to be ignored. Ignore them and risk losing out on a lot of potential profits. Being the capitalists they are, of course the industry will embrace them.

All of the above factors might be small, but at the end of the day they do add up. Hence the discontent. Not just among the musicians/bands, but also among the listening public. There's only so much crap you can take before you finally say enough is enough, right? And if you ask me, that's exactly what's happened here in Malaysia. The last general election results powerfully demonstrated that a lot of us Malaysians have said exactly that, enough is enough.

And this whole indie music revolution currently happening in Malaysia is also that, kids finally saying enough is enough. Kids slowly making their voices heard loud and clear. They're saying this is what we want. These are the bands we like. You media people might want to push such and such bands as the next big things, but we know better what we want and what we like. The days of the media trying to push their friends' bands as 'geniuses' or next big things will very soon be over, if not over already. The kids now have far more options to choose from. And choose they will. Ah, how beautiful that is, democracy!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

my CD reviews in Junk magazine (part 1)

With everyone competing to be THE tastemaker in this huge blogosphere, here's my own little attempt at pointing the way to great music, or warning people to tread with caution on some albums. So if you have a CD you think I might review favourably (just check out all the reviews I've written here to see the kind of stuff I might appreciate), do get in touch, 'cause I love freebies... hehehe. All the reviews here have been previously published in various issues of Junk magazine from last year to this year:

Nada Melankolik Malaya
(Clockwork Records)

Promises are not easy to keep. When most of us first heard OAG’s Satelit Ink album, I’m sure most had really high hopes for the kind of brilliance that might come next. But then all of a sudden, that OAG line-up splintered into 2, leaving Radhi alone to soldier on as OAG, and with Naza & Alim forming The Times.

Suddenly we’re left with the possibility that the promise might not be fulfilled after all. And after both The Times’ debut album and OAG’s new one, it does seem that such a bleak proposition, after so much wonderful promise, might turn out to be true after all.

Sometimes the best things come when you least expect them to. Take this second album by The Times for example. It must’ve been real easy to dismiss them after what was at best a patchy debut album.

But real artists strive to improve, and long to create something worthwhile that will touch other people’s lives. And artists The Times have proven themselves to be with this album. To give you an idea, if your favourite songs from Satelit Ink include “Konspirasi Bising Internasional” and “Venusia”, then you NEED to have this album in your life, because it’s full of tunes of that quality.

Not only did they bother to fill the album with all these sweet, mid-tempo melancholic pop-rockers like “Wilayah Strawberi Selamanya” and “Konspirasi Primadona 1965”, they even had the balls to give us what is, for my money, one of the greatest love songs I’ve ever encountered by a Malaysian act, an achingly beautiful little song called “Infra Merah”, with a gorgeous vocal performance by Naza that I guarantee will melt even the coldest of hearts.

And “beautiful” is a very apt word to describe this album, which is a huge surprise if you think about their supposedly rock n roll reputation. But credit where credit’s due. This IS a beautiful album, unexpectedly so, maybe, but beautiful all the same. I’m just happy that somebody kept their promise. And in doing so, have also signalled, that The Times have finally arrived.

**** stars

Alpacas Orgling
(Cheap Lullaby Records)

I’m a pop geek. Add to that the fact that this CD is one of the most hyped and highly anticipated releases in the pop underground, coupled with the band’s impeccable pedigree in having people like Mike Viola and Andy Sturmer involved, consider me sold!

However, as great as most of the tunes are in here, I can’t praise this too much, considering the high ambitions of this project - a tribute to the style & spirit of Electric Light Orchestra (“ELO”).

Taken out of the ELO context, all the songs here are wonderful, but when you bring ELO into the picture, only a few can hold up like “Ya Had Me Going” and “Make Me”. The financial constraints of an indie project surely made it impossible to reproduce the ridiculous but magical bombast of all the classic 70’s ELO recordings.

And that’s exactly what’s missing here.

*** stars

Never Hear The End Of It
(Murderecords/Yep Roc Records)

This might be a strange way to recommend an album, but if you find yourself not so impressed with this album upon the first quick listen (i.e. skipping tracks), I urge you to actually sit down and listen to this CD the whole way through.

That’s exactly how I unlocked the mysteries of this latest album by Canada’s power pop heroes, Sloan. I went in looking for the usual quick fix of great “singles” and a few above average fillers, but found something else instead, an old fashioned, Abbey Road style “album”.

Not that this sounds like Abbey Road, but more in the same spirit, in which the sum is greater than its parts. Yes, songs like “Set In Motion” sound like a monster hit in waiting, but the real beauty & genius here is how the album gently works its way into your soul. God bless you, Sloan.

**** stars

(Big3 Records)

Old rockers soldiering on can sometimes be an embarrassing sight, they say. And I’m sure it’s safe to call the Cheap Trick dudes old too. But embarrassing they surely aren’t.

This new album by them is probably the freshest non-70’s Cheap Trick album I’ve heard in a long time. It’s amazing how young everyone in the band sounds. The songs, oh my God, almost all of them have a vitality, freshness and excitement as if they’re written for a first album, not what you’d expect from an album 30 years down the line!

It’s depressing, however, to think about how this fantastic album will be ignored by the younger crowd, simply because of how unhip it is to listen to Cheap Trick now. But this is a great record, that very rare combination of melody and power. So please, don’t let yourself make that mistake. Get it now!

**** stars

Visible Idea of Perfection
(FFWD Records)

Let me put the record straight now. The S.I.G.I.T is a great rock n roll band. Songwriting-wise, they can easily kick Wolfmother’s behinds anytime. And they’re also reputedly kickass live performers.

However, I have a bit of a problem with this album. It’s full of solid, and sometimes great bluesy rock n roll tunes, in the vein of Led Zeppelin and the aforementioned Wolfmother (if you want a recent reference).

It’s no coincidence that people associate rock n roll with dirt, filth, sweat, rawness and the like, as it’s that primitive instinct that makes rock n roll so special and durable. Make no mistake, The S.I.G.I.T is rock n roll, but this album isn’t. It’s just too well produced, and sounds tame next to the primal sounds of their earlier demos & cassette only EP. I really wanted to love this album, but I love dirt more, I guess.

*** stars

i'm back, and isn't it pretty odd?

Wow, it's almost 2 years since I last updated this blog! Assuming that anyone's reading this (haha), I do have a good explanation though. I've been busy with work (as always), but my band Couple has been very, very busy playing live shows week in, week out and trying to win a place in the Malaysian Book of Records as "The hardest gigging band aka Road Dogs of All Time". Hehe, wow, lame try at being sarcastic!
I've also been writing music reviews for a KL-based music magazine (with regional ambitions) called Junk, so my 'writing' time's been taken up too. But finally I'm taking a huge step to living the true 'punk' dream, i.e. to be 'free' to do whatever the hell I want, by starting out on my own (my own law firm and a music-related business), which therefore will also enable me to manage my own time when it comes to my band Couple, and my writing aspirations...
Anyways, after 2 years, so many possibly good things have happened, both to me personally and to our beloved country Malaysia, so I'll definitely be blogging on these soon, but first I'll be putting up some of the reviews I've written for Junk magazine here for your reading pleasure, starting with the latest one published, which is a review of Panic At The Disco's 2nd album, Pretty Odd, which nicely coincides with this blog post's title...
Pretty Odd

(Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen)

Second albums can be a really funny thing. It’s been made such a big deal of by music critics everywhere that even the thought of having to make a second album can sometimes induce a panic attack on an artist.

With this second album by Panic At The Disco (they’ve dropped the exclamation mark from their name for this album – don’t ask!), even a cursory listen will make you deduce that the Panic boys have taken a step rarely taken when it comes to second albums, that is they’ve made a 180-degree turn and made a completely different record from their debut. Whilst their debut can be squarely pegged in with the emo brigade, this new album is simply a flat out pop record. Heck, you can even call it a power pop album, filed under the Jellyfish school of power pop. Now that’s what I call pretty odd!

Opening with the type of intro song that almost always opens a ‘serious’ album from the psychedelic 60s, it’s with the second song, “Nine In The Afternoon” that they fully announce the splendour of their ambitions. Copping all the right moves from the equally ambitious second album by Jellyfish called Spilt Milk, the only thing that could’ve made the song even better would be some Queen-style harmonies, an element that’s strangely and sorely missing from the whole album.

It’s during the middle that the album loses a bit of steam, with loads of ballads and a few decent but unremarkable mid-tempo numbers, until we reach the song “The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know”, another wonder of a song that again brings to mind the much underrated and criminally forgotten Jellyfish, sounding like something that might come out of mid-period Beatles, specifically circa Rubber Soul and Sgt Pepper’s.

Then onwards things start to pick up again and we’re treated to 2 more incredible songs in “Behind The Sea”, and the absolutely majestic “She Had The World”, in my humble opinion the undisputed crown jewel of the album. In fact, it’s so good, I can probably write a whole essay just on it!

Which now brings me to the problems I have with the album. As an album, it’s simply uneven, despite the respectable number of stunning songs on it. I kind of understand their ambitions and need to prove their musical craftsmanship to the world. It may only just be pop music after all, but there’s more to it than just being a great craftsman. You also gotta have soul, son. And for much of the album, that’s exactly what’s lacking.

Rating: 6/10