Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Power Pop: Global Style!

Your blogmistress is a woman of much unexpected--and yes, sort of unusual--information. For example, I know a pretty respectable amount about the cultures of Southeast Asia (though the languages elude my relentlessly western brain). (Do you know the only Malay word in the English language? Answer below.) I mourn the death (a month ago today) of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, upon whom I've done a fair amount of academic work. And I can talk about the problems of the drug trade in Burma or the history of their brutal regime SLORC, or rubber production in Borneo for longer than anyone wants to listen. I've made Balinese story cloths with underprivileged kids and flatly refused to learn Thai dance when I was six months pregnant (I still think that was the right decision).

But I tend to think of these things as concretely separate from my other interests, and so when something blasts through the divider, I get unreasonably excited.

Thus, Couple.

Couple are a Malaysian power pop quartet whose management posted a comment here a week or so ago. Idly, I wandered over to see what the fuss was about, and was completely taken in by the band, who really have internalized the permanently adolescent bubble gum edge of classic power pop. Like Ail Symudiad, there's something vaguely uncanny about hearing the familiar cadences of power pop in another language, and so "Tentang Kita," (means "About Us") which you can hear here at their myspace page, is sort of like listening to an Asian Eric Carmen impersonator.

THE current indie rock revival/craze going on in the local music circuit notwithstanding, a band with a decidedly more tuneful approach stands poised for a popular breakout. Couple, a pioneering power pop combo released its debut album, Top of the Pop last month, featuring a collection of hummable, sinfully addictive songs.

But the word “debut” may be a little misleading. The band dates back to almost a decade now and have previously released four albums, all recorded on cheap home recording equipment and packaged as CD-Rs sold at live gigs. Referencing the classic pop sounds of The Beach Boys, the Beatles, through to American power pop icons like Big Star and The Posies, the Ipoh-born frontman Aidil Rusli formed Couple with a friend in 1995 and began demo-ing songs together.

What the lo-fi output lacked in sophisticated polish, it paid off in loads of homespun charm and loveable pop.

I confess, I love this stuff. Malaysian pop singers debating the salability of Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand in the current climate: how can you not? They also seem to have a great sense of powerpop history: note the Big Starr-ry spelling on "Be My Gurl."

Here's how they describe themselves;
One of the few true blue power pop bands in the region, Couple has been plying its trade for about 10 years now, dedicating itself to remind people of the virtues and magic of 'the song', and the power of the pop!! Taking cues from bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Big Star, The Who, The Raspberries, The Beat, The Rooks, Enuff Znuff and Weezer, Couple has kept on doing what they do best and hope to put a smile (and hopefully a headbang or toe-tap or two) on all youse guys' faces. But, making you wet your pants will make us equally happy too!!

Relying solely, and foolishly, on the dodgy songcraft of our dodgy and lame frontman, Aidil, Couple has continued to defy the odds as none of us can play our instruments competently to save our lives, hoping to inspire similarly incompetent kids to just form their own bands and stick it to the Man!! Our live shows are textbook examples of the triumph of substance over style, if you call professional musicianship 'style', that is. Sloppy and loud, with more than a touch of toilet humor in our lame crowd banter (if we're up for it!!), our live shows will never fail to make you wet your pants with laughter and icky stuff. Yes, we're THAT good and THAT bad!!

Bottom line: We're here to serve the muse that is the pop! To pursue that magic in 'the song'. And to give you the sugar rush you need!!

They're supposed to be coming to IPO in Los Angeles in August.

And here's a video for their Strokes-y "Now That I Can See"

A: The only Malay word in the English language, BTW, is gong, the instrument so crucial to the gamelan.


refinnej said...

ooooo... they sound fun! LA in August, eh? Maybe we can go see them and take the opportunity to visit little bro!

echidne said...

Where are tattoo and taboo from?

Tom - Daai Tou Laam said...

tattoo and taboo are not malay words. The online dictionary gives their etymology as Tongan.

And English has accepted the Malay word "durian" in to the language as well. Much better than the Dutch word for the fruit "stinkvrucht" in reference to noticeable organo-sulfides released in to the air.

And the durian will definitely be a subject for "guess the food" on some future Tuesday at my place.

Tom - Daai Tou Laam said...

And on the note of Asian pop and rock, might I suggest Dragon Radio which tends more towards the rock and punk than the power pop, but it's a free way to sample the alt music scene from around the region.

Anonymous said...

Here are a few more: http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/malay.htm

NYMary said...

Great link! I stand corrected! (See, wingnuts? It's *easy* to say you've made a mistake. There's really no need to turn nasty)

I note that many of the words listed are specialized and not *usual* in English, like the kris (sometimes called the keris)--but then I'm not really up on knife culture. I also association sarong and bamboo more widely with the South Pacific, as the writer notes. (And as Tom points out in response to Echidne's question.) He also notes that a lot of these words come to English through other languages, which may be why their origins were occluded a bit.

But 'amok' I love!

NYMary said...

That should be "I also associate...." of course.

Tom - Daai Tou Laam said...

From the article:

:::and ketchup. This last word may come to us from a dialect of Chinese, but the English word is certainly derived from the Malay kechap, meaning “fish or shell-fish pickled in brine”.:::

I'm not so sure about it being derived from the Malay, if the Malay is meaning "fish or shell-fish pickled in brine".

Tomato in Cantonese is faan-kay
Sauce is sup with the s having a slight z sound
Tomato Sauce is kay-sup.

shahrul azwad said...

The Malaysian Malay called soya sauce, KICAP.
KECHAP is Indonesian Malay I supposed. It is written on the sachet found in Instant Noodle (Do Americans called it RAMEN?) under the brand "Indomee"