These days it seems it is customary that bands open with an instrumental track. This is not a complaint. Coldplay have done it for years with aplomb. It’s a great way to make sure things are sounding good for your set, and The Time Travellers took that excellent opportunity to get everyone in the mood for their set.
I was told before that The Time Travellers used to sing in English however this set, the majority of songs were in Cantonese and I applaud them for that. Some bands seem awkward when they are forced to sing in a language that is not their mother tongue and in this case their Cantonese vocals always seemed stronger than the English songs. The originators of Canto rock Beyond and Paul Wong’s solo stuff paved the way for local bands like Dear Jane and now The Time Traveller.
The Time Traveller, seem to have a bit of everything in their music. Their first two songs 春天不見, and Times and Memories really set the tone for their set. Their sound can be described as very Coldplayesque with a bit of an edge. They were louder than what their music style suggests but it works. The distortion in the guitars and the intricate drum parts give each song a slight intricacy and detail that most bands in Hong Kong don’t seem to pay attention to.
Their third song, 沒下次 ushered in the middle of the set, and they slowed things down, but that doesn’t mean it was boring. Power ballads seem to be lacking in the HK rock scene, it’s mainly reserved for pop. People thinking that bands have to just rock hard 24/7 but when it’s done right, it’s a beautiful thing, and they do it right. This song reminded me of more recent Green Day of 21 Guns and Give me Novocaine.
Fourth song Set Me Free, almost had a jazzy feel to it in the verses, probably helped by the progression from the keys and the swing on the drums. Now I haven’t said much, about the keys but being, the only XX chromosome in the band, she more than adequately held her own. Her instrument, is not the focus of the band’s sound, but make no mistake, her keys are the thing that gives The Time Traveller, their mood. It has a slightly edgy and ethereal effect and just gives them a very interesting dynamic.
Side note: throughout their set, Saffron were playing Pink Floyd’s Live at the Greek, and for some reason, that weird PF vibe fit their set perfectly. It was almost like a music video within a music video, a very surreal experience which is kinda what their music encompasses.
Their last song,枯石, kept the power ballad going, but it’s not to say it was not full of energy. The Time Traveller are a great band. It’s original approach to the typical rock sound, coupled by the Cantonese lyrics and local attitude make them a band to watch. I was a big fan by the end of their set and it looked like Sonar Lights were too, as they stayed till their very last chord before they prepared to go on stage.
I can only hope that there will be more bands like them, that can ride that wave and continue adding to a list of already stellar local acts that sing in Cantonese, cause let’s face it, music is the universal language. If it’s right, the head will bob no matter how you sing.
– Jon Lee