What a superb & fun night we all had. 人賤人愛 ‘s debut was lots of fun and ElecTriCious had the crowd dancing! On their 9th Underground appearance; The David Bowie Knives showed how it’s done and Shatalene became the icing on a musical cake that was savoured at Backstage. Thanks to the musicians, Backstage (esp Abe), Ewa on video and as always lots of love t o The Underground Team for their passion & dedication.
love Chris B xx
- Why on My Bed?
- You are Just a Dick
- Fuck You (CeeLo Green cover)
- I’m Sick and Tired of Your Judging Face
- Just be Gay
The night began with, what turned out to be, an unexpectedly sexful set (was that just because The David Bowie Knives were in the house too?) I had expected something more avant-garde and ‘arty’ (in its ‘inscrutable’ sense), purely based on the description of the band and how they looked. I was, however, pleasantly surprised to find a mix of power-pop and pub-rock greeting my ears, in the first song. There’s some New York Dolls-ey loud, brash, drunky sound, from which they moved on to a little light jazzy touch on You Are Just…) and then to the loungey Just Be Gay. This is all topped off by the vocals, singing sarcastic, cutting lyrics in a deliberately hyper-saccharine tone to nicely juxtapose the two; which tactic, while being somewhat common (particularly among female singer-songwriters), was very well-executed, for which many kudos to Tang Yi for that. I suppose a good comparison of her style would be to Lilly Allen, with some spoken-word-type stuff (in I’m Sick and Tired…), the sing-song, extremely simple tunes and the general manner of phrasing (to be fair, she did name-check Katy Perry during the set, but I am worse than unfamiliar with her catalogue, so I must of necessity remain silent on the matter). The contempt oozing from You are Just… and Why on My Bed? were very much in that vein, and expertly done, getting the crowd going immediately. Their cover was a brief interlude into more trivial ground, and while I would strenuously contest the choice of song, it was competently done (though it sounded very much like a Brady Bunch song, which I found amusing). In all, it was a solid set with which to start the show, and they certainly set the mood for the night to follow quite well.
— Shashwati Kala
The band was, to put it simply, full of surprises – but good ones, for that matter. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant when asked to review the band (“I really don’t listen to that much electronic music…” “You’ll be fine,” Chris B assured), but don’t let the name fool you – most of the electronic elements in the songs serve more as ornaments than form the main dish itself. The second surprise came in the form of jumpers. Correction: bright, patterned vintage jumpers that all the band members were rocking. With this attire, you’ve already won half the battle before you even got onto the stage.
The first song set the expectation for where the night was going, music-wise; 觸發點 was what a 80s Leslie Cheung song would sound like if it was rigged with rock influences and remixed with heavy beats and a drum track. The vocalist looked a bit sheepish at times, and seemed unsure as to where to put his hands – but he had a nice, deep voice that went well with the vibe of the songs. The second song, 非請勿坐, was a groovy one, with a catchy guitar motif and Jay Chou-esque vocals, but the third, 月光sofa was the one that really stood out, with a beautiful vocal interlude by the bassist Eunice that showcased the diversity of talent the band possesses. The rapping vocals, the backup singing, the keyboards, the bass and the beat all blended together nicely and ended on a high pitch finish. It was only till the fourth song, 卡式, that there were more overt electronic influences; the keyboardist, in fact, was a new addition to the band. The intro had synthpop overtones, and the melody of reminiscent of Alan Tam’s 這陷阱; this song would be great for either the soundtrack to a late night police chase in classic Hong Kong gangster films, or the theme to an Ultraman cartoon. 傻was the curious love-child between the electronic motif of a James Bond-like theme and jazz influences; it also featured backing vocals by yet another member of the band, the drummer, who had a sweet but strong voice that matched the vigor of her instrument. The last, 外星人之吻 (Kiss of an alien), was my favourite of the night; it was perhaps the song that most lived up to the expectations attached to its name ‘Electricious’, with layers of electronica, synthpop and space rock that had the out-of-the-world qualities of Muse.
Overall, the band delivered a solid live performance that delivered a modern electronic twist to retro tunes with heavy Cantopop influences. At the end of the night, the band even offered free CDs to those who would like their Facebook page. You go Electricious!
— Karen Cheung
The David Bowie Knives
- When in Doubt
- The Ship
- Take Me There
- You Want Me, Don’t You?
Next up were the guys making their ninth visit to the Underground’s stage, but this time with one major difference; they’re one album old. Having released an album always places bands in a very interesting situation; how should they handle the fact that they now have songs in a publicly-available form, which can be accessed at any time? Should they change their live setlist entirely, or slowly move away? By default, their new songs will be compared to the recorded, older ones, which places them at a disadvantage – songs on a first album usually have an incubation time of a few years, within which they are honed and made increasingly better. A new song that’s not quite been entirely arranged and figured out to the band’s satisfaction will, naturally, suffer by comparison. There’s obviously no set answer to this, but one good way to handle this would be to do what tDBK did – start with one of your better-known songs, and intersperse the rest of your set with old and new songs. In this regard, the setlist you see above is well-constructed; it allows them to be crowd-pleasers by playing songs that are likely someone’s favourites, while also beginning the process of moving along to newer songs, and the band deserves credit for this. (Some other local bands that have done this well that come to (my) mind are Logo, Hungry Ghosts and Shotgun Politics.)
A second thing that the band did well, possibly better than any other band I’ve heard playing at Backstage, is that they somehow made the sound work perfectly for them, with the exception of Berri Txarrak. The chunky sound that they got from the guitar, the searing, simmering high notes of the guitar, the smooth and punchy bass – they all sounded perfect where I was standing. It’s usually been a struggle for bands to make the Backstage setup work for them, and Backstage has been conscious of this, and has been moving towards solving this over the years, so credit all around on this one.
Finally, the band played a typically smooth set. They’re very good at playing live, which will be attested to by almost anyone who’s seen them (which should include you, if you haven’t already, really). Each band-member is very good at the instrument they play, and I need sing no more paeans to drummer Gabe’s sheer skill, and they know how to write a song to make it catchy and hooky. If you visit their page of reviews on the Underground, you’ll find several references to bands like Nirvana and Oasis (to take just two examples), and I think this has more to do with the fact that tDBK know how to arrange songs in a manner that hooks listeners, just like Nirvana and Oasis did. For a band that started off “wanting to sound like Supergrass” (not an exact quote, mind you) they’re much heavier and bluesier, and this is for the best. In fact, I’ll add another name to the mix of comparisons and say that they sound like the middle ground between Supergrass and The Doobie Brothers. Coincidentally, Foreplay begins with a rhythm similar to China Grove. Their newer songs are true to their style; lots of soaring voice and simple, bluesy guitar solos, sounding like heavy Britpop, of which Take Me There was particularly good. They finished the set with their classic You Want Me…, with its highly sing-along-able final lyric “I believe in rock ‘n’ roll, and rock ‘n’ roll believes in me”, and the feel in the room couldn’t have been better, which is the best testament to a set terrifically done.
— Shashwati Kala
- Cat Ballou
- Bangkok Surprise
- Sea Panther
- Tired Man’s Tirade
- Love Darts
Shatalene continued tDBK’s trend of sounding really good (although, it’s a little unfair since Shaun from tDBK is drummer in this band), and there could hardly be a better circumstance in which to see them live for the first time. By a mix of ill-luck and what I can only assume is a malicious god of show-scheduling, I haven’t been able to see Shatalene live before this night even though they’ve been around for a while, for which I tried to make up by listening to them on bandcamp. However, live turned out to be way better. The band is a twosome, with the other being Natalie (who also plays bass for Tigerbombers), who apparently only picked up the bass a couple of years ago or so, but seems to have been a natural, because she’s now pretty damn good at it (another example of this would be awesome-bassisst Maggie from Say Mosquito), and adds finesse to the bands she plays in, with her smooth, rounded sound and a tendency to play ever so slightly after the beat.
The mix of the two talents ends up being very interesting, and surprisingly polished; the execution is flawless, and the songs are small vignettes of bass-dominated rock ‘n’ roll; it’s a little like what I imagine Flipper would sound like if they covered Shangri-Las or Yardbirds songs – deep but non-jagged bass that’s played more like a lead blues guitar, playing sweet-sounding melodies.
I must say, before I heard them, I didn’t know that Natalie could sing quite as well she showed on this night, and her voice really shone on songs like Walking and Love Darts. The vocals kept passing between Shaun and Natalie, which was a great way to keep the interest high for all their songs. Bangkok Surprise started off sounding like Beautiful Zelda and moved into sounding very much like a Thai Shangri Las song, while the slightly-jazzy-slightly-50s-rock ‘n’ roll Walking. The last two songs were super-heavy, and featured Shaun going crazy on the drums. The closer was probably their best song, with its wonderful combination of a punky, Ramones-y sound, and sounding very much like The Slits, or Bikini Kill, which was a great way to finish. It was a bloody impressive set if I’ve ever seen one, and definitely up there with the best set of any band I’ve seen for the first time, and perfect end to a great show.
— Shashwati Kala
Poster by Ananya Kala
Photos by Angus Leung