Albums Of The Week

The Great Spy Experiment frontman goes solo with Memories Of Melancholic Horses

The E’s is the solo project of Saiful Idris, frontman of now-defunct indie rockers The Great Spy Experiment.
The E’s is the solo project of Saiful Idris, frontman of now-defunct indie rockers The Great Spy Experiment.PHOTO: THE E'S

The Great Spy Experiment's frontman returns with heartfelt lyrics and uplifting beats

In the middle of last month, a batch of songs by a mysterious Singapore band calling themselves The E's started circulating among local indie circles.

Their Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages revealed scant information. Apart from the enigmatic slogan "Who Are The E's?", prolific local producer Leonard Soosay is listed as having recorded the songs, while Saiful Idris, frontman of now-defunct indie rockers The Great Spy Experiment, mixed and mastered them.

Saiful has since come out on social media to reveal that The E's is actually his solo project. The songs, written in 2009, were part of a batch intended for The Great Spy Experiment's sophomore album, Litmus, before they were scrapped in favour of more collective songwriting by all the band members. They played a teary and emotional final show last year, two years after Litmus was released.

Memories Of Melancholic Horses (perhaps a nod to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novella Memories Of My Melancholy Whores) answers the question of what The Great Spy Experiment's latter works would have sounded like, had the singer-songwriter been given free rein.

Saiful sings and plays all the instruments himself, save for the drums, which come courtesy of Bani Hidir, talented multi-instrumentalist behind acts such as B-Quartet, 53A and YouthWreck.

While Litmus, released six long years after The Great Spy Experiment's debut, featured a more layered and collaborative sound, the five tracks on this EP sound like a more refined continuation of what made the band's first album so engaging.



    The E's


    4/5 stars

There are plenty of nods to early to mid-2000s indie rock - fans of The Killers and The Strokes will find the guitar lines and rhythm tracks comfortingly familiar.

The songs are often snappy, unfussy and immediately arresting. Their heartfelt lyrics, however, are a contrast to the uplifting, arenaready feel of the rhythms and melodies.

Cold Hands has a breezy tempo carrying sombre verses as Saiful questions: "Why oh why oh why do you hurt me so completely?"

Opening track Nobody Wants You shines with a catchy chorus, where he muses: "You wanna go for a ride/But nobody wants you/Nobody wants your love."

Slow Hands captures the despondency of a relationship slowly falling apart: "So say the word, yeah, say it like you mean it/ Say it's always so I'll believe it/Oh but always is not a very long time at all."

You bop to the beat, raise your hands during the rousing moments, yet at the same time ponder the brooding emotions in the words.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'An arresting comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe