Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Banned in Da Singapura
Album Launch
Coco Carib (Clarke Quay)
15 January 2000
An edited version was published in BigO No. 171 (March 2000)

By Mark Wong

It's been a while since Localpalooza 2 (and, of course the ensuing hullabalooza), so I was particularly eager to see the Boredphucks live again. In the months following their debut appearance at the police station, the Phucks have been slapped with NYC (National Youth Council) and P10 (Perfect 10 aka 98.7FM) bans, had their integrity questioned, changed their names and granted telling interviews with this magazine. Along the way, they also decided to release their first album--Banned in Da Singapura--and plan a launch party for it. Yes, it was time once again to listen to the music.

And so I turned up at Coco Carib among some 350 others--a comfortable squeeze. Foreplay came in the form of covers by opening punk band Rioting James (their attempt at A-ha's "Take on Me" was anarchy alchemy) as well as a dance item by the Fluff Girls (with their hot tubes). But for all the novelty, it wasn't what the crowd was there for. It was at about 9.30pm when Sig Lendonn, J-Bob and Sir Richard Tu Lan strutted on stage that the show really began.

They started well. Songs like "Boredphuckin", "Eating Air" and "Ballad of Tabitha" egged the crowd on to some happy moshing. Someone even lost a shoe, in the merry melee, that was being tossed around in the air.

There were some other comic moments, like during "Battle Over Endor", when the audience were treated to the live spectacle of J-Bob doing his death metal parody. In guttural growlings, his ad-libs of "Satan is my friend" were about as scary as Barney and as humorous as the same dinosaur being brutally mutilated.

Despite what they've said about themselves, the Phucks are a musically tight three-piece. Lendonn wails so hedonistically and still nails his solos with authority while J-Bob and Richard provide steady backing.

"Baby When You're Gone" was a high point in the gig. A classic homage to over-the-top rock ballads ala Bon Jovi, the Phucks even brought out two lovely ladies for backing vocals during the heart-wrenching chorus! And who could forget J-Bob's rock star pose: perspiring, on his knees with bass guitar flamboyantly held erect as he plucked off the simplest of single notes.

Regrettably for the Boredphucks, something was missing that night. Lendonn was a subdued figure and for all of J-Bob's (self-confessed) "monkey" dancing, the energy was wanting. More performer-audience interaction would have been good (though we did laugh when Lendonn told us to "beat the shit" out of the guy who "stunned" J-Bob's bass). The audience wanted--expected--more. Hell, it was the Boredphucks, right?

And therein lay the problem. On the plus side, these lads have amassed a smoking reputation for giving a good time, and people are going to go to their shows expecting that. The downside is the baggage of hype they're going to drag around from now on. By the last three songs before the encore--the impressive lineup of "Rock With Ya", "Zoe Tay" and "Phuck Da Skool"--even the moshing had stopped. The crowd, with "feed me" looks in their eyes, suggested an answer, chanting a certain naughty hokien phrase right after the band had done "Zoe Tay".

So after Lendonn's quick taunt after "Phuck Da Skool"--"Thank you goodnight!"--and the subsequent booing, when the lights turned communist red and Chinese gongs sounded out from nowhere, ecstasy gripped the fans. "The last time we were at the police station, they said we cannot use vulgarities anymore... so you'll have to sing this for us." Yes, Lendonn became mummy's boy--and J-Bob, with female undergarment over head, took over the vocals on the as-prurient-as-we-wanna-be "Ai Sio Kan Mai". It's amazing when you think about how this hokien number has emerged as the quintessential Singaporean rock anthem--a killer live. Rioting James got back on stage to join the romp, its members took turns at the climactic refrain and everybody in the room took part in a last-gasp effort to end the night on a high.

So was it high enough? A tinge of disappointment diffused quickly when the band finally left the stage. Yes, it may seem a little unfair to expect so much from just one band but hey, it wouldn't be the case if they weren't the Boredphucks.

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