Live Review from Underground 94:
1. Tony Chan
2. People Aren’t Bad
7. Body Snatcher
8. Big Parade
9. Monkey Magic
10. Polonium 210 (Encore)
When a band walks on with a keytarist among them, you know they’re gonna polarise your opinion. When they walk on with a bassist who looks exactly like Geddy Lee you get the feeling that you may really enjoy the music to come. And thoroughly enjoyable it was (although, to be fair, who’s ever heard of a boring ska band?), with the place almost reeking of third-wave ska. They were evidently seasoned veterans of playing live (and that’s not just at the Underground), and singer John’s verbal dexterity at keeping peoples’ attention and enthusiasm immediately shone through. They jumped into their set with the bass-drum opening to Tony Chan, proceeding into People Aren’t Bad (apparently about “how disappointing life is”), which had an almost standalone walking bassline, and the horns coordinating with the drums to create some great melodic rhythm.
To follow, was a ‘ballad” about a Filipino sailor who gets lost, featuring the clever repartee of the lines “ ’Darling I’ll never leave’; ‘I know- you’d never dare!’ ”, and an array of fascinating tempo changes (like, going from a 3/4 beat to double speed, in a mere 6 seconds!) Some light was shed on their initial worry over lack of further material upon the end of the Bush presidency, and Obama followed, highlighting their knack for coming up with memorable vocal phrases in their songs, a la the Clash. The conversational tone of lyrics, local references aplenty, and notable subject matter (“sex and politics”, crimes with dead bodies, the CPC and their 60th, and general social commentary) made them highly relatable, and their fans (who had long since moved right upfront) could not help but move to the music.
Having played the kind of music that puts fluid into shoulder- and hip-joints, Monkey Magic was a bit more rocky than the rest of their songs, with some Chuck Berry showing up in the melody, and a bit of Cab Calloway’s big band tendencies. They were also joined by Ivy, who lent her sizeable vocal skills to the song. After actually trying to walk off without doing an encore, the stop-start, highly Latin-oriented Polonium 210 brought their set to a close at an insane pace, stopping with a classic R’n’R flourish, and making it clear to all and sundry why these guys have played for the Underground 9 times already.
Live Review from Underground 87:
- Down in the Delhi
- Port Royal
- People Aren’t Bad
- Polonium 201
- Tony Chan
- Black Rain
- Body Snatchers
Listening to Transnoodle’s music is really a relaxation – the kind of exuberant, festive vibe that is long missing in this local music scene as well as this concrete jungle. It is not uncommon that one would easily picture himself on a beach carnival with white tents spreading across the shore. (And watching Transnoodle play a beach show would be a double thumbs-up!)
In this type of funky Ska music, the bass usually plays a very essential role in laying out rhythmic, laid-back basslines that make people want to dance. It makes no hesitation to say that the bassist does a fantastic job turning the songs extra groovy. Together with the mellow harmonic ostinatos played by the keyboardist, they, of course, serve to underscore the shuffle guitar patterns, the self-assertive vocals and the captivating saxophone. Every piece they play is just colorful, rich and witty. To be more specific, the way the bassist incorporates into the songs the famous Billie Jean intro, and the saxophonist Careless Whisper, catches the crowd off guard and highlights their performance with a memorable touch.
Since Transnoodle has a wide range of world music elements in their music already, I would be more delighted to see congas, djembes, and/or other indigenous instruments like the mbira and hosho being used in their set. And of course, I would be more than delighted to watch them play again!
Live Review from Underground 81:
Only three bands have performed 7 times at the Underground (Correct me if I am wrong :p) and the ska band Transnoodle is one of them. It was my third time to watch them at the UG and it is not difficult to understand why are they being invited back so often. Once they started playing, no one can stop tapping their feet. Even shy people like me wanted to dance along with the songs too. In fact, I was so into their music and did not even have time to write down anything for their review. Their performance is energetic, with high ‘dancibility’. I am not an expert in classifying music into different categories, so you can check out other reviews or the best way is to go to one of the shows.
Click here to see them playing their original song: ‘Port Royal’ at Underground 81!
Live Review from Underground 80:
It’s a very strange thing to have a veteran band start an evening. Transnoodle is an Underground veteran. This is the sixth time they play Underground, and also for the fact that they have co-headlined with overseas bands, they should headline a show like today’s. But they kicked start the exciting evening, which turned out to be exciting non-stop to the end, you’ll see. If you’ve been to California, the first question that should came to mind would be how the hell could all the members of Transnoodle fit on that tiny stage. Not surprisingly, they couldn’t, so keyboardist Matt Steele and singer Josh O’Connor were on the dance floor, and quick frankly, for music of Transnoodle’s, the dance floor should have been packed with dancing folks, but that did not happen. So Josh was roaming the dance floor while singing energetically. I know I should explain what kind of music they play, but I suppose there’s been so many reviews, and Transnoodle does not disappoint, so it’s alright. My mate Eric told me to forget about writing the review, just soak up the music. I promptly did, put the notebook back into the pocket, and could only share with you that, it was rowdy, fun, danceable, easy on the eyes (the female trumpet player Sarah Liegeois, not the singer Josh) and very European (the songs). If you like the details, the other reviewers would have already done them justice. I love to jump up and down to great music, thank you very much. By the way, are you one of those download crazy guys? You are? Head over to http://mp3.com.hk/transnoodle/ More than enough for those of you who love that right-click-save-as-target function.
Click here to see watch Transnoodle playing live at Underground 80.
Live Review from Underground 73:
If I had to point out at what point in the night the party started, it would probably have to be during the 30 minutes or so these gents from Lamma took the stage. Transnoodle either have a lot of friends, or a lot of fans (I suppose it’s possible to have both), I say this because CiXi was packed when they rocked their set, and basically empty in comparison when they were done. Transnoodle were welcomed onto stage by the back pain plagued Chris B, (gotta love Facebook) who explained that the band used to do Metallica covers. True or not, I would like to see a ska version of “Enter Sandman,” Transnoodle, hook it up. From previous media on the Noodle, it seems that its one of those bands where the lineup could be between 2 and 20 at any time. If my memory serves me right, I counted one guitarist, one bassist, one drummer, one keys player, one horns player, and one hell of an entertaining front man. I’ve seen in some pictures a second guitarist though. Hmm? Transnoodles sound is a mix of punk reggae and ska. They are infectiously catchy. You look around the room and the people that weren’t dancing were tapping their feet. I know I had a little rhythm dancing through my clogged veins. Moments that worked great for me were: the harmonies between the horns and the guitar. The current affair topics their songs were about. Referencing the Georgia invasion, and the vocalists dedication to “The bankers worried about losing their jobs”. The relationship they have with the audience is one full of love. So much love that Transnoodle were left with no choice but to play an encore. A+
Tim – Hong Kong Independent Music Blog
Live Review from Underground 63:
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Transnoodle is one of the most entertaining bands in HK. Already their fourth appearance at the Underground, and again they’ve put on another great show… this time featuring Koya (from Very Ape) as their replacement on the bass.Two tracks were stuck in my head for a long time (and still is!) – “I Need a Mormon”, and “Hong Kong”.
Thanks to a few bottles of Asahii, I thought I heard them singing “I need some hormones” for a while, haha! It made me choke on my beers when the track suddenly turned into a familiar tune from the Beatles…
“ When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.”
Then I looked at them on stage, and a band calling themselves “Trans-noodle”… hmm… what kind of hormones do they need!? They’ve got plenty of party hormones in them already for sure!!!
Caribbean Ska music with a lot of personalities and stage presence… excellent musicianship, very experienced and tight… entertaining and fun to watch! Any beach parties coming up? Transnoodle has to be there and if they do, I’d suggest they wear Hawaii shirts with wigs!
Live Review from Underground 52:
- 1. Port Royal
2. Spicy Island
3. Hong Kong
6. Down in the Delhi
7. I Need a Mormon
8. Ferry Pier
9. Monkey Magic
10. The Journey (a.k.a. the Ballad of Khaled El-Masri)
According to the curly-headed guitarist, ska band Transnoodle had seven members, but I counted 8. (9, if you count Chris B ‘‘just posing, not playing’’ for the Nat. Geog. video crew…) Like Madness in the early 80’s you never knew how many you were going to get. On Cixi’s small stage, they almost formed a solid straight line across the stage. Transnoodle evoked a return to UK-bred 80’s ‘nutty’ ska, punk and new wave sound, in turn a pastiche of Jamaican ska from the early 60s celebrating independence from British colonialism. Pork pie hats, black suits, thin ties, saxophone, trumpet, new wave keyboards, Jamaican references – it was all there to the T of the genre – (though, no Oi Boys in red braces and 12-hole Docs with National Front tendencies in sight, luckily). With their ardent followers jumping and skanking in Fred Perry shirts from the first note, this band meant great musos, best fun and loads of entertainment.
The lead singer’s great vocal style was made apparent from very start with Port Royal and Spicy Island had the very welcome feel of a Wreckless Eric song recaptured. The bah-bah-bahs of Hong Kong took me straight back to Summer Fun by the Barracudas. This is a band that makes you smile uncontrollably as you dance.
The next song saw a line-up change and a guest guitarist join the stage. Was that the guy from Very Ape? Vocals were deep and gravelly on Pohwahyuen with forceful rhythms from drums and bass. ‘…That was years ago…’ some of the lyrics went and could be applied in reference to the ska and punk music of the 80’s that this band heavily borrows from. (And even if they were years ago, so what? They were still GREAT times.)
If you could offer any constructive criticism, I perhaps would have liked to have heard a small number of quality covers of the great original ska songs made famous by the likes of Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff, Ernest Ranglin and Bob Marley mixed into this band’s set. If the band’s original songs are so derivative of 80’s UK ska, then a big part of that also referenced Jamaican ska in a kind of reverence. Why not throw in one of these great songs to balance out the moods and extend the musicianship?
The songs continued, danceable, likeable, about revolutions and other types of angst-ridden stuff. I Need a Mormon was another silly song for the lads to sing down the pub and get a laugh out of like Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Please. The band, ever off in multiple directions of wit, even managed to mix in the Beatles with a riff and line borrowed from Help in there somewhere, too.
Ferry Pier was manic and fast with just the right rhythms for a skank. The expats went off, the Chinese went off, the whole place went off.
An encore followed but only after the band made the audience beg…and beg we did. Monkey Magic and then The Journey telling a sordid tale of CIA prisons, hotels, wives and people doing things altogether untoward finally ended the night.
Transnoodle are simply, silly and brilliant. We got flawless musicianship and great entertainment. Everyone was happy.
Isobel Shahzneen Saunders
Live Review from Underground 38:
An uptempo opening song by Transnoodle had me sitting up. This band is very different to the other bands I’ve seen at The Underground. There’s a lot of people to fit onto the stage but somehow they find their own space. Ska crossed with Carribean with some attitude, they are definitely locals with lyrics pertaining to various subjects such as the outlying ferries and Tsim Sha Tsui. Nice to see the audience dancing instead of moshing. The brass section is outstanding and I’m pretty sure this band will have a strong future in entertaining HK.
Live Review from Underground 32:
It is indeed an exceedingly difficult task to accurately convey this musical style in mere words, but I will attempt it here and subsequently fail. Imagine a reggae-ska foundation with a touch of waltz, an operatic theme, and Jamaican attitude, mixed with the good aspects of 70s music, sometimes borrowing from 80s disco or stepping into Mexican salsa. Maybe even some Trinidad/Tobago style too. I don’t know how the hell they came up with all this, but it’s solid gold. Some of it is a bit like a mellowed out “System of a Down”. These guys would totally be the life of any Caribbean party, and it’s truly an honor to see performers of such a caliber live.