Albums Of The Week

Album of the Week: Homegrown indie rockers Plainsunset say farewell with Both Boxer And Benjamin

Plainsunset's Jonathan Chan (with guitar) and Norsham Husaini (behind Chan) at the band's farewell gig.
Plainsunset's Jonathan Chan (with guitar) and Norsham Husaini (behind Chan) at the band's farewell gig.PHOTO: ALOYSIUS LIM

Both Boxer And Benjamin by Plainsunset is the sound of a band all grown-up, with enduring bittersweet earworms

Back To The Beginning, the opening track of home-grown quartet Plainsunset's new album, is harsh, a pummelling bruiser with little of the hooks and melodies that the band made their name on.

Considering that Both Boxer And Benjamin is their swansong release, it is the band coming full circle, a return to their punk-rock roots that date back more than two decades.

It is the only straight-forward punk-rock track on the album though, as the rest of the work is filled with bittersweet earworms that linger long after the music has stopped.

The band, currently comprising frontman Jonathan Chan, guitarist Norsham Husaini, bassist Nizam Sukri and drummer Helmi Abdul Rahman, have come a long way from their early days peddling speedy, power chord-driven pop-punk.

Both Boxer And Benjamin is the sound of a band all grown-up, that acknowledge their juvenile, playful past but are also comfortable with the musical maturity that comes with having been together for a long time.

  • PUNK/INDIE ROCK

  • BOTH BOXER AND BENJAMIN

    Plainsunset

    Self-released

    4/5 stars

In an alternative world, at least one track, Pioneer, a rousing ode to the city that birthed the band, could certainly work as a National Day song if mainstream listeners are ready for a tune that rocks harder and has more rough edges than the standard, polished NDP fare. "This city is all we have," Chan sings fervidly, as the stomping verse gives way to a rousing, uplifting chorus.

Then there are tracks such as Believe, with its saccharine melody and twin-guitar duels which almost mask its socio-political lyrics (the album title itself is a reference to characters in George Orwell's Animal Farm).

"You only say it all when it's good for you," Chan sings. "But then you turn your face way when you don't like what we have to say."

They are thematically miles away from the inward-looking, break-up tunes from, say, 2001's Love Songs For The Emotionally Wounded.

Anyone who has seen the band on stage would attest to their magnetic live presence. It is one of this album's biggest strengths that the songs retain some of the urgency and immediacy of having the quartet play in front of you.

The call-and-response parts are scattered judiciously throughout the dozen tracks, most notably in Right Time and its handclap bridge and 50 Cent references; or in The Idea Of Hyper Political Correctness' stadium-rock aspirations.

They are an effective tool for audience participation at gigs, but they are also the type of songs that pop out of the earphones of solitary listeners.

It is a shame then that, after last Saturday's farewell gig at the Esplanade, we will not be able to see the band bring these songs to life onstage again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Solid ride into the sunset'. Print Edition | Subscribe