Various Artists | The Underground: #2 Straight Ahead...back to Roots

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The Underground: #2 Straight Ahead...back to Roots

by Various Artists

From sexy face-melting rock n roll to reggae ska and indie rock flambe with spicky kicks. TWENTY-TWO great tracks from 11 of Hong Kong's best bands.
Genre: Rock: Garage Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. She's the One
The David Bowie Knives
4:27 $0.99
2. Crystal Clear
The David Bowie Knives
6:37 $0.99
3. Dash
Kissing On the Dance Floor
3:25 $0.99
4. Subtle Sexy
Kissing On the Dance Floor
3:06 $0.99
5. No One
The Ember
4:45 $0.99
6. The Last Call
The Ember
4:28 $0.99
7. Sugar
Lee James Tsui
3:33 $0.99
8. Black of the Line
Lee James Tsui
3:31 $0.99
9. For My Brothers, Friends N Sisters
7:10 $0.99
10. Let It Be
4:20 $0.99
11. The Chase
Poubelle International
3:10 $0.99
12. The Battle of Trafalgar Square
Poubelle International
3:36 $0.99
13. Dead Air We Breathe
Homeless Alien
6:05 $0.99
14. Awake
Homeless Alien
4:12 $0.99
15. Rock 'N' Roll Machine Part 3
Thinking Out Loud
3:52 $0.99
16. Gonna Be Famous
Thinking Out Loud
2:38 $0.99
17. I Feel Fine
4:30 $0.99
18. Ride With Me
4:09 $0.99
19. Taxi to Wanchai
Bone Table
2:41 $0.99
20. Bullet Proof Black Sedan
Bone Table
2:31 $0.99
21. Port Royal
3:26 $0.99
22. Transnoodle
5:27 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The Underground HK -
showcasing live original music in Hong Kong since 2004.

Here is the list of bands who are on the CD and their two songs specially recorded for this Compilation CD:

She's The One

Crystal Clear


Subtle Sexy

No One

The Last Call


Black Of The Line

For My Brothers, Friends n Sisters

Let It Be

The Chase

The Battle of Trafalgar Square

Dead Air We Breathe


Rock 'n' Roll Machine

Gonna Be Famous

17. F.T.T.
I Feel Fine

18. F.T.T.
Ride with Me

Taxi to Wanchai

Bullet Proof Black Sedan

Port Royal





to write a review

The Review!
The David Bowie Knives

1.“She's the One”
To kick off this musical journey, we have one of HK's current hottest acts (they will tell you, I mean literally sexy hot) I have never seen the word sex related to one band so much as I have done with the David Bowie Knives. In fact tDBK's REFER to their music as sex rock. To be honest these guys sound very brit indie to me, but its cool, I'll go along with sex rock. Mainly because I'm pretty certain “She's the one” Is about “Giving her one.” “Her hand went to unzip my fly” is actually a lyric in the song. I'm also thinking the lady in question, is one that is “professional” if you know what I mean ;) ;) Either way, well catchy tune boys. I love the harmonies that lead into the chorus, very pro. Great sound, again arguably not unique, but what is these days? One of my top picks over both the discs, strategic placement putting them on first I feel!

2.“Crystal Clear”
Crystal clear has a much darker tone than the previous track. Still pretty sexy though. Now would be a good juncture to point out the concrete Rhythm section that drive along tDBK's. Very tight, I'm not sure how long they have played together, but the bassist and drummer sound like they could be brothers. This isn't to say that front man Shaun Martin, is crap at his guitar, because ...well he isn't. He's a great vocalist also, lots of emotion comes through in the singing. He sounds a bit like the dude who sings for The Black Keys actually. Compliment. Anyway back to the song, not that we are in danger of missing it, it goes on for over 6 minutes! I particular like the “Doors” sounding break down that comes in about 4 minutes. I feel tDBK's chose this one to show off their musicality a bit more. Fair enough, it did. This one isn't as pandemically (my blog, my made up words) catchy as the last one, but that doesn't mean it's shite. Good on them for showing that they aren't a one trick pony.

Kissing on The Dance Floor.

What a delightful little band name! I believe it is inspired by the main activity that takes place at Neptunes II (self high five!) Dash starts off and I am intrigued as to whats happening. We've got a disco bass line, atmospheric guitar, effect laced vocals and a quirky rhythm keeping it together. I'm having a little difficulty hearing the vocals in the early part, but I can hear the lines “Do you remember the treasures that you are looking for” being repeated. Peculiar! 2 minutes into the song and it breaks out into a more conventional tune. It's got great lala's in the chorus of which I am a fan of. Especially when it stems from the lyric “coco cola”. Just when I thought this song was picking up however, it ends. So, next song.

“Subtle Sexy”
This one almost sounds like its a completely different band. It's bright, bouncy and flows along like the rain being brought by this typhoon. I can imagine more making out on dance floors taking place to this song then the previous one. 1min33 is one of my favourite moments on this CD. Without giving away to much , I'm going to say one word: groovybaby. The lyrics are still fun and quirky, “Like we're running in Africa” Again though, the song ends too soon for me. In their defence though, it is the standard 3 minute length so fair enough. Overall, consistently interesting. Well done KOtDF.

The Ember

“No one”
Bust out the in house moshing! Our first head banging track has arrived and I am loving that the song giving it the most balls, comes from the only all girl band on the CD. \m/ (Thats the bullhorns btw grand dad) Is it journalisticly inappropriate that I point out the girls are hottt? Oh well. Should have paid for a magazine if you wanted integrity. Enough! Back to the music. It's what most people would call “emo” music. (Please save the Sunny Day comments, don't worry, I come from that school as well) Anyways, it IS fairly emotional regardless! Evidence can be heard right from the first line: “This world is full of shame, there's no place for me to hide.” I'm liking the singers voice in the chorus, she holds those high notes quite amicably. The verses remind me a lot of the band “Lost Prophets.” They have that whole melodic guitar picking married with broody vocals thing going on. Quick production kudos here, I love the sound of the kit and especially the bass guitar. Distorted guitar in the chorus's though, not so much a fan of that sound. Guessing it's a metal zone girls? Once again, this is purely due to my taste in sounds. Next song!

“The Last Call”
This one has a reduced tempo from the last one, but the emotional level has not decreased at all. We're still at Defcon 6. In fact there's more screaming and heartfelt singing in this one. This tune reminds me of some of the older “The Used” songs. Slow yet piercing. Granted not everyone is going to like The Embers style, but so what. The girls are good at what they do and in a scene where many many bands sound the same. I feel they stand out quite well, and thats not just because they are a bunch of girls. Props!

Gong Wu

If you go to Gong Wu's myspace, its clear these guys think the sun shines out of their arse. If you make some of the comments that these dudes make, you best make damn sure you've got the music and performance to back it up. You know what? They do. They really do. Everything sounds immaculate, from the “Yeaaaahs” leading into the chorus to the funk style guitars in the verse. It's rock defined. Major attitude, Major guitars and Major(ly) sounds like it could be on the Terminator sound track. Solid stuff. It pains me a little to say it, but hats off to Gong Wu.

“Back of the Line”
Wait scratch that, this should be on the Terminator soundtrack. You can absolutely hear the Guns'n'Roses influence the guys mention in this one. Now, a quick point to detail here. I'm pretty certain the lyric I'm hearing here is “Back of the Line” but the inner sleeve lists the track as “Black of the line” oops. Musically, it's a lot like the last one. Great structure, good performance from each member, and holy shit the note held by the model come singer towards the end has the potential to shatter some serious glass. Gong Wu have been making a very good name for themselves in the scene recently. It's hard to argue that they aren't a great sounding band. They just are. Fact.


“For My Brothers, Friends n Sisters”
For the record, Sanjeev (lead singer) is my favourite singer in the scene. Even though live I feel this band can offer more performance wise, his singing is always so note perfect and has that ability to send a tingly feeling down your spine. It can be real grungy ala “Vedder” and at the same time very stadium rock ala, well 1980. This track starts off very dark with a chorus drowned guitar haunting the sonics accompanied by a mysterious bass line holding it together. The vocal harmonies are the best on the CD, but then again I was expecting this to be the case when I saw they were on the track list. There's no doubt that this is a very moving song. It looks into the harsh times of our home planet. More so on the whole war and violence side of things. It's almost a call to arms to stand up and fight for your rights. Very fitting for this day and age. 4min20 has a great bass shining moment, which has also sold the song to me as being one of my favourites. This is another one that extends the 6 minute mark. In fact it just goes past 7 minutes. Epic!

“Let It Be”
Bold, bold move naming a song that instantly identifies with “The Beatles” but anyway. This one is much happier then the last. It starts off with the trademark Quasar dreamy guitars, before the rest of the band joins in with this great tune that I am going to go ahead and say is a love song. It's very alternative rock, and extremely 80's rock at the same time. I can almost imagine a terribly embarrassing music video for it. Theres not much else to report, and thats not a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoy the mood of it, the chord progressions, the tones , the melodies everything! It's very well planned out. Another one of my top picks! I'm glad I've got to hear Quasar recorded. It has definitely boosted their ratings in my, oh so important books. Some bands DO sound better on tape.

Disk 2

Poubelle International

“The Chase”
Pretty certain it's no big secret that I heart PI, serious amounts. I was excited to see that their names were on the track listing for this CD. I was, however, a little skeptical to hear if their great live sound would translate well onto a recording. Do not panic kiddo's for it does! If you aren't familiar with PI they play indie/garage/pop. They use the formula of simple catchy songs, and they do it well. Damn well. Lots of repetition, interesting lyrics and keeping the audience wanting to dance. Dance'n'roll! This song is another one that tells a tale of lust. “If you want it, come and get it” will get you singing along and continuing to sing for several days after. Trust me.

“The Battle Of Trafalgar Square”
This one continues the trend of bands selecting two extremes of their music. I suppose thats the smart thing to do when given two tracks to show off your band. This one is a little lighter than the last one, but still bouncy and catchy. I'm digging the “Elliot Smitheque” vocal delays. The thrilling threesome stick to their song writing formula, with lots of repetition and infectious melodies. I'm trying to find fault with PI, but its quite hard. They have a distinctive sound, and execute it brilliantly, both live and recorded. Oh wait heres a fault! Both your tracks extend past 3 minutes boys. Liars! Top Pick!

Homeless Alien

“Dead Air We Breathe”
Cute band name guys. I can imagine some great band logos! The music though, not so comic. Not at all. In fact this is one of the most professional sounding tracks on the album. So much is going on it risks feeling over done and claustrophobic. Instead, the outcome is a very polished track. And a great one at that. The band cites “Radiohead” as being a key influence in their song writing. You can absolutely hear “Yorke” and co. in this song. It's ambient, soul stirring , and rocks out all at the same time. Great vocal melodies continue throughout this song. My favourite thing about it, is that if you listen to the background mix, there's lots of subtle interesting sounds contributing to the overall sound. Major thumbs up guys. They get the award for blending technicality with great song writing. It's never too much and at no times is it empty. To me, this is a great achievement in a song which stretches to 6min03. Top pick!

It was going to be a tough one to follow their previous song, but I was interested to see how they would go about selecting their second track. They've gone the opposite way. This one is more uplifting than the previous. At the same time though, they manage to maintain their atmospheric/busy sound. I'm seriously digging the guitars. You'll be pleased to read that yes I have found some faults. Every now and then when the notes of the vocals go high, the singer struggles a little to consistently get there. Usually this could break a band, but in some ways, it adds that little touch of character to a great sound. This track didn't have me as awestruck as the last one, BUT it definitely had more of a unique sound, as opposed to the Thom Yorke worship that took place in the last one. So props for identity.

Thinking Out Loud

“Rock'n'Roll Machine”
Excellent! The Underground lady herself features on an Underground CD! TOL have a very interesting sound. It's grungy, poppy, funky and has a sax in it! I'm not usually a fan of brass instrumentation in rock bands. The sax solo that kicks off at about 3min16 is, well, fucken' smokin'! You can hear that each member is talented at their instrument, but it never gets too show offy, which I think is rad! A lot of people are fans of the whole virtuoso thing, but not this guy. I'm absolutely loving the sultry singing from Chris B. That little phaser that comes in every now and then on the vocals is a great production touch. I'm also digging the lyrics big time. “Psychedelic messenger from the front line” Niiiiiccceeee! Rock n Roll machine indeed. I wanna hear Parts 1+2 please!

“Gonna Be Famous”
When this track kicks in, I Immediately am getting flashbacks of that 90's teen flick “Clueless.” Particularly that song about becoming a supermodel. Cheesey class that song. Thats what makes this one interesting, as it's fairly ironic. It's bubbly and titled Gonna be Famous, but instead of a , “I'm a super star” song, it's basically a big two middle fingers up at the Miley Montanas and Britney Lavignes of our current media fed world. Attitude! Nice one guys. It's basically taken the argument of most artsy musicians and turned it into a song. I am throughly enjoying the dig at auto-tune and lip syncing. Now instead of ranting the realities of the Disney run music scene to people, I can play this song. Thanks TOL.


“I Feel Fine”
Hooray for poppy rock. Po Kei who I'm guessing is the main song writer of this band as well (he is the front man of the Good Fellas) definitely has a style of music that he likes. It's got a lot of overlapping vocal lines, singing about the joys of being happy. Thats just what F.T.T do and in a year where we are broke, unemployed and have swine flu. That's more than welcoming. It kind of takes you to a summer day driving to the beach. Or taking a taxi I guess would be the HK equivalent. There's a great high energy that continues throughout the track and it never gets boring. F.T.T should stand for Feel Two Thumbs(up). It's impossible not to feel ecstatic when listening to their tracks.

“Ride With Me”
The happiness continues straight through with this song. The music is very guitar driven, lots of repeated chords and riffs that blend over different layers of vocals yet again. This song has time for a neat little guitar solo before returning to the bouncy yay-rock. If The Beatles swapped LSD for cocaine, and were given distortion pedals, I'm pretty sure the sounds wouldn't be too dissimilar to those of F.T.T. One thing that I'm impressed with, is that theres a fine line between cheesy and joyous. F.T.T always stay on the right side of that! Nice one lads.

Bone Table

“Taxi to Wan Chai”
Excellent, we finally get a band who set a song in Hong Kong. If Quentin Tarantino came to direct a film in HK and had a scene in Wan Chai, I'm pretty certain this song would make the soundtrack. It's got that rootsy dirty rockabilly feel to it. Dirty and Wan Chai go together like Hugh Hefner and 7 girlfriends, very well. The song repeats the lines “Taxi to Wan Chai” and as I sit here late on a Friday night polishing this review off, this song is tugging at the strings of my Triple O's full heart. (True story, the mushroom burger I had today was scrumptious) The song's basically about a stock broker who wants to get lashed in our nations sleeze district, then take a broad back to a hotel. A cheap one at that. It's all in the lyrics, this isn't my interpretation of anything. I'm sold! Great tune. Top pick!

Bullet Proof Black Sedan
This one shows off the musical prowess of the instrumentalists a bit more. They are all very tight. The guitars in this one remind me a little of “Hendrix.” Big call I know but they deserve it. Have a listen and you'll see what I mean. The vocal melodies somewhat remind me a bit of that “B-52's” song “Love Shack.” That one I didn't like so much, this one I do. Nifty guitar solo in this one also. Now that I think about it, the guitar work on this compilation is very good. I'm proud to say we have some great guitarists in HK. Bone Table have a fantastic sound that is uncommon in HK. Except for maybe El Destroyo, but seeing as both bands share members, its understandable.


“Port Royal”
Speaking of fantastic sounds. I'm pretty certain there is no band in HK who does what Transnoodle do, at least not as well. Transnoodle have a billion people in the band which plays a blend of ,well, everything. Ska, Reggae, Bossa Nova, Samba, Punk, Rock, Pop and Pirate? Ok so I'm not sure if Pirate is actually a genre, but thats all I can think of when listening to this song. A bunch of rowdy swash bucklers getting absolutely tanked, abusing the ladies and eating their grub in a manner that would offend Prince William. In case you were wondering, yes there is a horn section, and yes it sounds just as good recorded as when you hear them live. Top Pick!

Transnoodle, by Transnoodle. Excellent. This one starts off with a Latin sounding guitar line, I'm expecting some “Gypsy Kings” to start coming out of my speakers. Instead it goes into this big band sounding song. I can imagine hearing this song in a smoky night club where everyone is smoking, in doors, ban free and loving it. I really enjoy the fact that when the singing style switches up for the chorus, the vocal melodies gives the song a completely different feel, yet it's still very distinctively Transnoodle. It's actually worth buying this CD just to hear the great sounds of Transnoodle. Amazing production on this one!

So thats it!
2 discs of some of the hottest talents in the HK indie scene at the moment. And what a scene it is! I'm not gonna get all emotional here, but when you take a step back and actually think about how many great acts there are now, it's seriously a pleasing thing.

Favourite tracks: She's the One – The David Bowie Knives, Let It Be – Quasar, The Battle of Trafalgar Square – Poubelle International, Dead Air We Breathe – Homeless Alien, Taxi to Wan Chai – Bone Table, Port Royal – Transnoodle.

The only major criticism I have of this one, is that there is no band singing in Chinese! Not that I miss hearing Cantonese or anything. I just feel one track would add a touch more of the HK vibe to it. Still though, please support and pick up a copy of this. I know there's some of you who read this blog who don't come out to shows. Get involved!

Sweet, all done...Taxi to Wan Chai!