Live Review from Sub Terra #2
0. Soundcheck Song
1. Gotta Get it Back
2. Son of Sam
3. Growing Pains
4. The Pique Song
6. See You Hell
7. In The Woods
8. Pretty Please
9. Last Night in Hong Kong
After a few years’ hiatus, Say Mosquito made a grand and welcome return to The Underground at Sub Terra. The ska-punk sound can be gratingly unoriginal at times, but Say Mosquito avoids being pigeonholed by drawing from eclectic influences, writing songs close to Hong Kong’s heart, and delivering dance-able fun – with thankfully no brass instruments in sight.
From the off, first song Gotta Get It Back showed that the band’s sound is much more diverse than one genre. Lead singer and guitarist Steve’s creative and subtle use of effects pedals evoked early REM, while Maggie’s effortlessly intricate and creative basslines made it hard to look away. She nailed the bobbly ska riff sound on the fast and shouty Son of Sam, while Steve amped it up alongside Red’s frenzied drumming.
By Growing Pains, it was clear that the band was enjoying being back. Steve’s vocal tone took on a theatrically prog feel, while the breathless tempo and rattling chords closely recalled Arctic Monkeys’ mid-noughties work, or The Fratellis’ Creepin’ Up The Backstairs.
Then came the rumbling rhythms and offbeat, Less Than Jake styling of Pique Song and Hamster, with its rapid-fire basslines and ska motifs blossoming into rock chords. Between the two high-energy tracks, the crowd began moving (some even tried out a bit of skanking) to the sound of Red’s door-slamming snare and high hat combo.
On songs like See You In Hell, excessively loud and jangly chords made it impossible to hear what Steve was singing about, apart from the end refrain of “I’ll see you in hell”. Things would have been much clearer had the amps been turned down a notch.
“For this next song we’re going to go on a camping trip,” said Steve, who then tested out his Cantonese on the young crowd and was met with tumbleweed. The country-infused In The Woods had a completely different sound to the rest of the set, with thoughtfully-picked chords and a mid-section reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand’s Stand On The Horizon.
The frontman then channeled The Strokes’ clean, angular, indie guitarwork for the intro of Pretty Please, before he hit the distortion for an almost metal chorus. As the set wore on, the singer’s voice took on a grand, fruity quality – like a classic Shakespearean actor crossed with Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra. This combined with his versatile playing style and appearance – a prog David Byrne-meets-Weird Al Yankovic – made for an electric and original stage presence.
As the band went into Last Night in Hong Kong, he blasted a few power chords, then veered towards rapid ska strumming, and even a bit of shredding too. As the song ended, Steve explained that Say Mosquito’s drummer Ah Wah couldn’t play, so “Red” had stepped in instead, before he tried out a bit more of his Canto skills.
Perhaps the most impressive guitarwork came on the last song, Plane. To the sound of a whirly, helicopter effect, the performance to a cacophonous close. Calls for an encore went unfulfilled, though it’s clear they’ll be back on Chris B’s stage again in no time.
– El Jay
講玩ska嘅三人組合，就即刻會諗起Sublime，而當晚第二隊Say Mosquito試音試咗半分鐘「Soundcheck Song」後，的確畀咗筆者咁嘅感覺：輕鬆、精簡、超快。但係接住落黎嘅，原來係十首變幻無窮嘅作品。
老土d講句，Say Mosquito嘅音樂真係好難分類。佢地上次同The Underground演出嘅時候，已經被比喻為Pearl Jam溝Mojo Nixon再溝Dead Kennedys，今次嘅演出無異，筆者只想喺度稍作補充，因為佢地嘅靈感彷彿來自搖滾樂以外嘅音樂。有時候畀我嘅感覺，係一個飲咗十杯咖啡嘅爵士結他手Django Reinhardt：「Son of Sam」呢首歌，正正係玩吉普賽爵士拍子，特顯出低音結他手嘅walking bass，不同之處就係用嘅chords十分之奇怪，冇一樣野會跟規矩做。有時候，佢地嘅音樂又會似進行曲：例如最後一首歌「Plane」，結構聽落甚至似兒曲，但係節奏嘅轉變以及chromatic chords，可能會嚇親小朋友。
– Elson Tong
Live review from Planetrox China 中國 Final 2013:
1. Growing Pains
2. Son of Sam
3. Hong Kong
5. I Quit
6. Pretty Please
7. Eat the Pessimists
Say Mosquito, I must admit, is a band I’ve been wanting to write about for a while; for one thing they are one of the few bands around that I can say sounds like no one else on the scene, and I’m willing to stick my neck out for this claim. If any other guitarist (in a non-funk band) is willing to play the opening four chords of Son of Sam in their song, I am yet to see them. Their music thrives on its odd-weird-funny-cute feel, and sounds like a vigorous combination of indie, funk, grungy, psychobilly and slightly punky music with just a touch of jazz. I imagine if 90s Pearl Jam ever covered a Mojo Nixon song with Jello Biafra on vocals and Ed Crawford on lead guitar, they would sound something like Say Mosquito. Perhaps the comparison to Jello isn’t quite accurate – singer/guitarist Steve’s vocal style is far more conventional than the Dead Kennedys singer’s overblown theatrical style – but his approach has a similarity to the way Jello Biafra moves between notes. But, if you’re still not happy, let’s split the difference and say Metal Mike Saunders?
It helps a lot that bassist Maggie has crazy-fast fingers and yet a very measured, cool style. Combine this with drummer Tatsuya’s rockabilly, in-the-groove drums (and his ability to come up with multifarious fills and to know just where to put in these flourishes) and you have a very compelling band Their music is very fun and has that toe-tapping feel that good rockabilly/psychobilly songs do, and the funny lyrics add to that significantly. The lyrics also flow really well and don’t sound contrived; things are kept very conversational but wittily so, with few recourses to cliché, which is an impressive achievement in itself. (As an aside, if you haven’t, you really should have a look at their video for Hamster. If what they are like as a band could be summed up in one video, this comes closest to doing it.)
Perhaps the main star of the show, though, is Steve’s guitar playing. It’s cheeky and quick, but with a strong sense of melody, sounding like a stylistic mix of fiREHOSE’s Ed Crawford (particularly on a song like Epoxy For Example) and Sublime’s Bradley Nowell. Hamster is something like one of those short songs that early punk bands used to play (think Orgasm Addict, or Stab Your Back), while I Quit had shades of Mudhoney in its feel and structure (the increasing repetitions of the guitar refrain in particular). Hong Kong was dedicated to recently departed drummer for WWTBTS, Andy Gilmore, and its quality of being a farewell song without descending into needless emotion made it an appropriate tribute. I have to compliment them for retooling the song from its former half-ballad-like form, because this suits them much better. Eat the Pessimists was a speedy, punchy ending to their set, with a more Fugazi-like “lick” (if it can be called that), but the feel of a Reel Big Fish song. I don’t think Pretty Please, despite its use of a beat not heard outside of vernacular forms of music, fit in with their set and interrupted its pace, while also kind of going nowhere as a song. Still, a very good set overall, and a terrific way to debut at The Underground…. Now when’s the album coming out?
— Shashwati Kala