Lovesongsfortheemotionallywounded [Wake Me Up Music]

When I let a friend sample Lovesongsfortheemotionallywounded, he couldn't believe it had been recorded by a Singaporean band.

"But," he gasped with eyes wide ajar, "but they actually sound... good!"

I remember nodding back, I think, in a nonchalent way, but I know I was smiling somewhere on the inside. It's not as if, after what were mere minutes, my 98.7/9.33FM-loving friend would awaken to the error of his ways and admit that he'd been a fool, shamelessly misled by the Corporate Beast and that boybands like A1 are the NEW LOW — not only can't they sing and play instruments, they no longer even look pleasing.

But if, just if, for those few magical moments, the musical rush of Plainsunset's sophomore album could even help partially soften his stigma of English "local music" and broaden his musical horizon — why, that would just make my day.

The first thing you'll notice (which my friend can certainly testify to) when you listen to Lovesongs, is that it doesn't sound like a local release at all. The production and mix on this is excellent, absolutely spanking and is a fitting retort to anyone who argues that local releases are "shabbily recorded." Each instrument darts forth crystal clear in the mix, bringing out the most of the band's music. Every feedback, every reverb is adjusted for maximum effect.

If you had heard Plainsunset's 1999 debut, Runaway, you'd know how well Jon, Sham, Nizam and Ronny can carry a good pop tune and dish it out in classic punk fashion — raucaus and always full of pogo-fun. Hell, these guys could knock the lights out of Green Day anyday.

Lovesongs, however, is decidedly a more sober affair. The two-to-three-minute ditties are more or less discarded for emotional torrents of heartfelt emocore. Taking off from where Runaway (the song from the eponymous album) left off, most of these lovesongs develop from sprawling guitar intros. The band has a great ear for melody, playing rich and robust pop, tempered with pure musical talent. The outstanding track, We're Not In, shows the band at their best: upbeat, energetic, tuneful and with an ooi! ooi! chorus: "We're not out/We're not in/We're not comfortable/We just don't fit in." Lovesongs plays like a more polished and matured version of Force Vomit's Kampung Rock.

Why, there's no reason this album shouldn't be making its way up the Perfect 10 charts. Find A Way is Natalie Imbruglia's Torn with power chords, while the title track — the album's poignant ballad — mimics R. Kelly's If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time.

The album does have its pitfalls. Somehow, Lovesongs, by virtue of its subject matter, runs the risk of getting too woe-dreary. Being serious about your craft is one thing, but the album loses a lot of the raw fun that flourished on Runaway. Boyband, for instance, with its potentially hilarious lyrics, is belted away with little enthusiasm, not in the least helped by Jon's sometime limited vocal range.

Also, the lyrics read too simplistically like "Dear Diary" entries. ("You know I couldn't make you mine/And so I had to let you go" and "The bond we used to have rusted away/Rusted away/Why did you have to leave me?") On the plus side, however, it does show that these boys aren't afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the song Plainsunset does show that this album is really about emotional vulnerability and letting yourself be vulnerable, if even for just a moment: "And now you've come around to me/To see my plainsunset."

"So," I reached for my CD wallet, ready to hook out my Humpback Oak and Stroll CDs. "Do you want to try on more local music?"

"Nah," my friend politely declined, "I think I've had enough for now. I'll go back to what I was listening before this."

I asked him what that was.

"Oh, Fann Wong." (7) — Mark Wong

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