Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Bali Bali Hey!

It's easy to be complacent about our position at the hub of the punk rock universe here in the Anglophile West. We Brits and them Americans constantly bicker over who invented it and who has the ideological ownership of it, while our near neighbours in Northern Europe actually do all the hard work in keeping it going - out side of it at least. So we might all be surprised to discover that probably the biggest and most vibrant punk rock scene on the whole planet is bubbling away quite nicely all of its own accord on the other side of the globe in the world's fourth most populous country - Indonesia.

And the true kings of that scene - and hence one of the biggest, most popular punk bands on the planet - are a trio of big-quiffed, tattoo-stained rock'n'roll kids called Superman Is Dead. Looking for every bit like a flick-knife wielding street gang from some unhinged South Pacific swingtime gangster flick, S.I.D. are one of those bands that make the cool girls swoon and the slick boys get their names carved into their skin. And heck do they rock.

Formed back in 1995 in the seaside town of Kuta in the south of Bali, the music blasting out of the stereos of the hipster tourists tweaked some primal punk button in three young lads called Boby Kool, Eka Rock and Jrx (although those may not be their birth names) who pretty soon melded what they heard into their own high octane, top fuel version of transatlantic punk, working very much to the post-Clash/Rancid blueprint, via NoFX and Social Distortion, while keeping their own intangiable Eastern feel permeating the proceedings.

After a couple of cracking lo-fi albums on a local inide label, they nudged the attention of the local wing of Sony-BMG, who swiftly signed them to a mutli-album deal, starting with the blistering Kuta Rock City in 2003. Each subsequent release has been a massive international hit right around South-East Asia. They've just started to make a first foray into the Western world of rock with a hefty and extraordinarily well-recieved tour of Australia, so who knows, if they keep up their rollercoaster momentum we could soon see them zig-zagging over towards the supposed family seat of punk rock'n'roll. Or maybe now their scene is so big that it's us who have to go out to pay them a visit.

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Mule music

Those of you who have taken rather a shine to the boy Joe McElderry's new career-defining single Ambitions may be surprised that it's already had a considerable track record long before last year's X-Factor winner got his tonsils around it. Indeed, before he'd even made his first nervous steps out of the house and onto his first auditions, it was well on its way to becoming one of the most popular songs in Norwegian chart history.

Its performers, Donkeyboy, had already been plugging their uplifting and sparkling brand of Scandi-pop around for a good four years before they were picked up by the label Warner Music - reputedly after an A&R man liked what he heard after he stumbled across them on MySpace. Their original take on Ambitions was released on 26 March 2009, and became an instant radio hit across the country. But despite a slow and gradual climb up the chart, by the time it finally made number one some 13 weeks later, it was selling by the trainload.

And there it stayed for the next 12 weeks, only replaced by the band's follow up Sometimes, making them the first act in Norwegian history to hold the top two chart slots. A number one album, Caught In A Life, soon followed, as did a European tour with A-Ha. Out of nowhere this unassuming little band from Drammen had become their nation's new pop darlings.

Their music is almost uncatagorisable - an amalgam of classic Scandinavian pop, eighties jangly guitar rock and an extraordinarily likeable while still slightly edgy contemporary feel. There's an almost evangelical joy to their live shows, and their wide-eyed innocence, married to their delicate but incredibly catchy tunes has been known to creep up on all but the most hardened music fans and sweep them off their feet. But take a look at their slightly odd videos and you'll see that there's some kind of substance behind the saccharin.

No wonder then that Simon Cowell knew he was on to a good thing and grabbed an option on the tune for his new young charge in a rare foray outside of his usual BMG back catalogue, giving the song a whole new lease of life. So perfect was the original that McElderry's version is a near note-for-note remake. Caught In A Life has just been released in the UK, possibly to quickly cash in on the smiling Geordie boy's almost certain success. Let's hope it ups their profile on these shores and they have a hit in their own right soon.

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.