Full Disclosure, Part One: Despite a tour of Asia some years ago, any direct knowledge of Singapore’s culture, in our case, derives exclusively from family ties. A first cousin and his brood have lived there nigh on 20 years, visiting Stateside for a month every December. Although news reports of chewing gum bans and public caning might offend those of a libertarian bent, he seems quite content living in what is apparently a very tightly-controlled yet flourishing society.
Full Disclosure, Part Two: When it comes to the Singapore music scene, Sobs are the first band we have ever heard of, let alone heard. So while informed comparisons to other local acts may be wanting, Sobs’ prior releases emphatically demonstrate an upward trajectory of mature pop-rock intuition – one likely to satisfy high-maintenance listeners who prefer their bubblegum with a bit more fortitude and viscosity.
According to Wikipedia, the prevailing languages of Singapore are English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, with English representing the de facto primary language. Air Guitar is sung in fluent English, with a generous helping of friskiness and intricate wordplay thrown in. Some of us may be long past dating age, but adorably innocent lines like “Meet me after dinner with your parents / Sneak out of the house again” from “Dealbreaker” can summon those romantic days of yore right quick.
Indeed, youthful celebration serves as a running theme on Air Guitar and a contagious one at that. We all want to stay young, but precious few things make us feel that way. Lead singer Celine Autumn’s twee feminine vocals forego the irritating breathy quality of today’s radio hits for a sturdier, more vigorous approach, managing to sound both sinewy and seductive at the same time. Even at a distance, singing about adolescent relationships and their frustrations, one can’t help getting caught up right alongside her.
Trackwise, we may as well begin at Air Guitar’s zenith and work our way down. Since this is a bottom-heavy record in terms of quality, this means Side Two. “World Implode” is undeniably the world-beating pearl here, straddling pop/rock genres with the kind of triumphant whirlwind disposition every pop-oriented band aspires to. For comparison, obscure yet energetic 1990s dream-pop act My Favorite and their surreal non-hit “17 Berlin” would probably be the closest facsimile, complete with lofty female vocals and jangly open-road guitar. The closing bonus track, “Cool”, is a close second, featuring Ms. Autumn’s finest vocal performance and some fabulous 1980s keyboard riffs. Honorable mention goes to “Dealbreaker” above, as well as “Last Resort’s” jagged yet insufferably cool vocal progressions.
Air Guitar’s lyrics come off as a touch juvenile on occasion, but only a touch – and this may be due not to the songwriters but to this reviewer being past a certain age. One anomalous choice that grated at first but wound up growing on us? The spacey drum machine/keyboard coda to “Friday Night” stands out for its brave singularity, unlike anything else on the record.
Air Guitar is a jubilant, unapologetic salute to dynamic pop-rock, especially the aforementioned “World Implode” and “Cool”. If Sobs can devise a way to populate their next record with stellar tracks like these two, they might suddenly find themselves on future year-end Best-Of lists.