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A look at Singaporean music scene

 article about A look at Singaporean music scene


Do Or Die


Rating: 6

Singapore rock, for the hardcore scenester
is largely disappointing, for like a Frank Kafka novel (whilst lacking the
literary polish), it's a perennial case almost there. The most telling example
would of local punk pop band Pug Jelly who after the heights of opening before
Canadian rock princess Avril Lavigne and her fiancé, Derek Whibley's Sum 41,
almost faded into the obscurity of the indie punk scene.

Yet, the
same old ending, which has also sent homegrown bands the boredphucks (now the
critically acclaimed Suns) and alternative rock favorite Electrico to Australia, may
now be permeating a different front following the impressive rise from bush
leagues of hard rock coterie Ronin.

five-man piece from Southeast Asia have mimicked the rise of British indie rock
impresarios the Arctic Monkeys by effectively utilizing the word-of-mouth,
coupled with the island-state's media to grab a major record deal, with
Universal Music Group, to launch their much lauded debut in Do Or Die.

Whilst the self-confessed Rolling Stone and
Led Zepellin wannabes have not yet perfected the rock star stutter and whammy
that the likes of Jagger and Richard saturate, they perhaps can hold steadfast
to the accolade of being one of South East Asia's most meretricious rock bands,
with lyrics that compunctiously poke at the pious (the chart topper "Black Maria") and its uncanny ability to
turn a catholic school hall into a mosh pit at a recent concert where this
reviewer was present.

Sublime stage presence however, is merely one
of the facets that musical legends have laid claim to and to Ronin's credit,
its attempt at scaled-down shock rock (its album cover is that of dollar signs
over female mammaries- reminiscent yet lacking of the subtle acrimony of
Nirvana's Nevermind) only chips away
minimally at its jadedly euphonious sound.

Do Or
opens with the aforementioned Black
, a fun attempt at Start Me Up,
which while catchy with its pretentious chorus ("Woo ohh/ Dancing With Black Maria")
and loud guitars falls short of anything remotely close to hitting the Rolling
Stone Top 500. And before it ends with You
Got Mojo
, a blend of dulcet female voices with albino frontman Levan Wee's
coarsely concordant vocals in another track that received heavy rotation on pop
radio, one is treated to a populist stab at Simple Plan-esque Untitled emo in Crazy Son ("Mama, all I wanna do/ Is play, in a rock and band/ Yeah, in
a rock and roll band")
and the band's credible attempt to do an Asian take
of Axl Rose and Jimmy Page in Money
and Animal with their mellifluous
unceasing chorus, alongside other more forgettable tracks.

It even has modern rock's omnipresent
political activist track in the heavy metal warcry Propagandagenda
("We won't take no more/ we won't take
your lies)
, which unsurprisingly falls way short of the profound "Sweet Neo Con".

To be fair to the band, guitarist Sean Cheng
does justice to kosher lyrics with his harmonic power chords and guitar riffs
and while the aptly-named Bang's drumming is clear and concise, it's is nowhere
evocative of anything remotely like John Bonham or Dave Grohl.

Whether Ronin end up, as so many of their
predecessors have, as just another
Singaporean wannabe hard rock
band is a tale for telling only with the
fortitude of time. But at the moment, it is resplendent of the Singaporean
story, almost there- but not quite.

Kristiano Ang is the Publisher of
Vainquer Magazine (, Asia's rock magazine for the world. He has profiled and
interviewed the likes of Avril Lavigne and Slipknot.

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