Live Review from Underground Legends 2021
1) Come Undone
2) Moving On
3) City of a Million Lights
6) Calling Out
7) Welcome to the New World
Next up to prove their legendary status was Helium3. With their fresh, confident faces, you wouldn’t think that this was their 7th gig at the Underground alone. H3’s cohesion and individual talents more than reflected this, however, as they impressed the audience with their specific brand of poppy and palatable soft rock.
(A brand which only comes with years of experience as a Cold Play tribute band. Colder Play, anyone?).
Opening tune Come Undone is a smooth and simple introduction to the flavour of the band, offering shades of Brit rock favourites The 1975 and Kasabian. The boys run a tight ship in terms of performance. This song (and most others on their setlist) is bursting with slick vocal harmonies which are performed by all band members, boasting their technical musicianship and professionalism when it comes to multitasking on stage.
Moving On’s brooding acoustics resembles bands like Radiohead and U2: groups who capitalised on those darker sensibilities back in the 90s without fully going heavy rock. Melodic, clean, and polished as fine China teacups, the only complaint I have with this song was that it didn’t seem to come to a satisfying enough end.
Or perhaps this is the first band I’ve listened to in awhile who do not put earsplitting breakdowns in every song.
Though I can’t imagine H3 turning metalcore, it wouldn’t hurt the soft rock scene to take a leaf from their books and consider other ways to end tracks than just fading into silence.
Ah, the ode to Hong Kong. Every expat-y band has one. For H3, that song is City of a Million Lights. Although it was not the most memorable of the night in my opinion, the song is a tender tribute to the city we all call home. Something about it reads as melancholic, yet still pleasant enough to not encroach upon emo territory. This makes me curious, however; bands like Helium3 who don’t stray from their tried and tested style always hold a certain intrigue to me. When it comes to imagining how they might approach different genres, I would love to see H3 explore their sensitive and gloomy side. Emo rock seems a natural side-step.
Satellite stays true to the Brit rock sentiment, with smooth bass and trebly vocal vibrato which seems a fond nod to Ziggy Stardust himself. The lead and rhythm guitarists are fine-tuned to a single wavelength, which is especially notable here as their corresponding sections flow seamlessly together.
Their self-proclaimed “most famous song”, Heroes-esque Home is everything you’d want from a rock ballad. It flowed smoothly into Calling and finally Welcome to the New World, which holds all the Helium3 hallmarks which we have become familiarised with choral harmonies aplenty, dreamy guitars, and pleasant catchy riffs.
If technically precise, tightly-hewn pop rock tunes are your speed Helium3’s style is sure to satisfy. Being such talented musicians, it would be interesting to see them veer out of their comfort zone and dare to put Coldplay in their rearview mirrors for a change.
– Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Live review from Underground 110:
1. No one’s in
2. Rule the World
4. Take me to South Stand
6. Chase the Sunrise
9. Come Undone
A retro-computer-sounding recorded intro opened up their set in an unexpected way, almost throwing one off, before some big guitars by Dave Campbell brought things back to more familiar territory. They oscillate between power-pop and American radio-rock, with bouncy melodies and generally uptempo songs. They’re definitely radio-ready; in fact they sound like a band that’s already on rotation on the radio. Which is a good thing in some ways – they’re tight, they’re fun, and they have likeable songs, they have a rich sound. In addition, they’re confident on stage and have a fun rapport between the band members, which adds to watchability. They’ve got solid, experienced musicians who add to the songs with their performances. All of which makes for an entertaining performance. They sound much like the Dandy Warhols or Franz Ferdinand (as on Satellite,and the catchy Home), and in their better songs they almost sound something like The Jam, like the punchy Rule the World. There are a couple of more soft-rock, Coldplay-esque songs, most of which involve the singer moving to the keyboard and while generally good, the few notes he kind of missed on Chase the Sunrise really stood out because of the melodicity of the tune, which was a bit jarring.
A radio-ready sound also has some downsides though, of which the most major is that the songs end up sounding quite samey, and (forgive me if I’m being too harsh) a little vanilla. Indeed, I felt a vague sense of “where have I heard this song before?” during each of their songs (I made sure to ask around a bit to confirm that it wasn’t just me being picky, and quite a few people agreed). …South Stand in particular sounded like a variation on Bohemian Like You’s theme. Which would all be fine, in my eyes, if they didn’t call themselves alt. rock. There’s really nothing challenging about the music, nothing that would weird you out even a little, so “rock” is a better characterisation of their sound. “Alt. rock” is already an abused term, too broadly applied to bands that have nothing ‘alternative’ about them, and I think that should stop. Having said all of this, make no mistake, these guys are good performers and are fun to watch. I would say that if they worked on making their songs more distinctive, they would be a much better band all around, and surely that’s something to be aspired to.
— Shashwati Kala
Live Review from Underground 86:
Helium3 sounds like they have been around for a long time. Their rock is compact and solid, and it is the kind of music you will surprise yourself humming during the day, without really remembering where you heard it first. They already have released one album, and it is only a matter of time before they make it on the international scene. Their performance that evening was up to expectations, the music was easily accessible and the group showed their experienced skills to an already won over audience. They might not be the kind of group which will revolutionize the scene, but their show was enjoyable and it was probably the best choice to close with brio this successful Underground #86 at the Rock School.
Live Review from Underground 77:
Again making their 4th appearance at the Underground, Skin Deep kicked off with the song “Moving On”, their first live performance of this number. What followed was a upbeat set of wholesome rock and roll, tightly delivered. The music, on the whole, was melodic and swingy although with each subsequent tune one was hit with a feeling of ‘deja-vu’… nice music, but nothing particularly inspiring and sounded very much like the last one – nothing wrong with that, the formula has been tried and tested and has helped them to secure a strong fan base. However, one is left with wondering what this band of accomplished musicians is capable of should they diversify a little.
Live Review from Underground 59:
Skindeep seem to be the most professional group of musicians for the evening. Their songs have a very clean catchiness in them. Inside the Cavern, they created a roaring sound with two guitarists, and with powerful drumming. But if reduced to carefully mastered and balanced sound, they would fit FM radio very well, and I wouldn’t be surprise they would find chart success easily.
Of course, with the FM association, I can’t deny that their songs are rich and catchy. Quite frankly, singer Nick Flavell’s voice and singing style strongly reminded me of Midnight Oil. “Come Undone”, their most catchy tune, is in my humble opinion text-book FM pop, top 40 material. I wonder if an alternative band appreciates that. But I guarantee you that once you’ve heard that song two times and you would have the chorus in your head.
Well, pop quality also has its shortcoming in a gig situation. Not long after Skindeep took the stage, strangely, people were leaving the floor. And afterwards, many gweilos, in particular, were talking to one another. Such lack of respect, I must say, irks me to no end. I think it’s seriously rude to just talk and talk away in a gig because this turns the perfectly rocking band into a lounge act. Besides, if the talking was so great, wasn’t it perfectly obvious that the place was VERY LOUD?
In addition, the portion of the show was accompanied by a video show by “the pink rubber lady”. Multimedia experience is normally a great thing, but the two screens in Cavern were away from the band, instead of right behind, so it was distracting rather than enhancing. No offence to the video artist, but I had no capability to pay attention to the video.
Skindeep described themselves as Britpop. I find little of that. This is rather illuminating about roots, they sound instantaneously Aussie. I think that’s what home does to you.
Live Review from Underground 54:
Nick – Mike – Andrew – Brendan
- 1. No One’s In
3. This Ship
4. Twist of
5. It brings me
6. Come Undone
Skin Deep are sharp looking and come across with a well-established sound…so much so that I wanted to roll them in dirt and mess up their hair. Punch them up and leave them in the gutter overnight. Then I’d pick them up and let them play… although, Amazing Bass player Andrew looks respectably weird enough not to have to undergo all this with his wondrous mutton chop sideburns… like some deserter from the American Civil War …or Victorian Dad in Viz Magazine…(Perhaps he says ‘Zounds! By gad!’ *snerk! giggles again*)
These are fab live musicians – they make a great sound. At times, they have cool alternative U.S rock shades about them, like R.E.M. or Three Doors Down, and at other times, they have a little bit of a Britpop feel about them. Whatever they did it was consistently excellent musicianship. Lead vocalist Nick switched between playing guitar and keyboards, guitarist Mike produced some incredible riffs that sang by themselves, Brendan’s drumming was determined but not all consuming and then… there’s Andrew…although he kept in the background his talent, determined and solid, just jumped right out at you.
I was lucky enough to score one of their giveaway CDs (www.skindeepband.com) but actually think they were better sounding on the night than on the recording because of their engaging live energy…and, yes… no one can deny it doesn’t exist, their very big good-looking-ness. Skin Deep were much appreciated by the rev-ved up crowd.
However, here’s the thing…and it was a bit like the time I had to listen to a whole Rob Thomas solo CD. I just got a bit bored. Some of their songs are too straight for my tastes, the sort of commercial pop/ soft rock stuff you hear (or don’t want to hear) on Video Hits on Saturday morning TV. I felt the band’s song arrangements and lyrics were a bit clichéd and lacked eccentricity. There wasn’t anything particularly edgy, innovative or dirty about their sound – it was just nice. What was missing was that touch of genius, accidental or otherwise, that causes that sublime mind-fuck in a receptive music freak who is really listening. Skin Deep makes cool rock music extremely well and has great stage presence. Apart from that, (and I’m not intending to be a bitch) there are no criticisms.
Isobel S. Saunders
Live Review from Underground 39:
Skindeep took the stage next, and despite their professionalism – they’ve clearly played together a lot – sure the songs they played were tight, but they remained too much in the Cold Chisel/Barnsey/Bryan Adams/Bruce Springsteen school of Formula Rock (just add cheese) for my particular taste. But if you like that sort of thing then I’m sure you would have enjoyed them.
The first song dealt with the important question “How do you feel when there’s something burning?, and personified the white rock of Bryan and Bruce. The second track started out more promisingly in a sort of Oasis-sung-by-Robbie Williams intro riff, but then slipped back exhausted into the country rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd … with a rap section!
The next two songs were again very accomplished, but somehow lacked an adventurousness that we’d seen in the preceding three bands. Nothing you could put your finger on, but perhaps the overuse of clichés was one thing, and possibly the fact that both guitars were playing the same thing rather than bouncing off each other. The next song “It brings me down” was the closest they got to something with drive and energy, but they sought refuge in their clichés (“drivin’ me crazy” etc) for the last two songs. Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh, but you can check out their songs yourself at mp3.com.hk/skindeep/
“Underground HK, allowing the raw music of Hong Kong to come kicking and mostly screaming out of the gutter” says Nick of Skin Deep