Mosaic Music Weekend

Tomgirl worth looking out for

Tomgirl (comprising Cherie Ko and Ted Dore) ooze motorcycle chic.
Tomgirl (comprising Cherie Ko and Ted Dore) ooze motorcycle chic.PHOTO: ESPLANADE



Esplanade Recital Studio/Sunday

Singer-songwriter Cherie Ko, 25, caused a bit of a stir in Singapore's indie-pop scene when word got out that she had ditched her sweet persona as Pastelpower for a darker, rock 'n' roll image.

Her new identity was unveiled when Tomgirl - her new band duo with musician-songwriter Ted Dore - held their first live performance on Sunday.

Judging from their debut, Ko's transformation to full femme fatale still needs work, but she is well on her way.

Musically and aesthetically, the pair have got their approach - a blend of garage rock and film noir - down pat.

The tunes, drenched in reverb, as well as their twangy, overdriven guitars, take cues from shoegaze, fuzzy rock and the Wall Of Sound pop records from the 1960s.

Decked out in black leather jackets and Dr. Martens boots, their dressing oozed motorcycle chic. You could tell a lot of care had been taken in designing the look of the show - down to the customised light boxes that acted as stage props - and classy array of guitars played by the pair.

The gig, one of the ticketed shows at The Esplanade's music festival Mosaic Music Weekend, also served as a launch for their eponymous debut album. The songs are bittersweet - baiting the audience, then drawing them in.

Singles Darker Now and Mean Streets, played in the early part of the show, set the tone with their big, booming sound and Ko's honeyed singing.

Then came Bang Bang, with dual vocals from Ko and Dore. More mellow, it contrasted beautifully with the build-up from Twist And Shout, taking the audience seamlessly into sun-kissed, rockabilly territory.

Kudos to the pair too for enlisting a sterling group of backing musicians, including Caracal drummer Martin Kong, who pulled off a flawless set, including a drum solo, despite a broken right leg, and Giants Must Fall's Jean Low on synths.

Blistering tunes aside, Ko and Dore's on-stage chemistry lacked sizzle. There were moments between them that seemed overly rehearsed, like when they stared into each other's eyes mid-song.

Ko's occasional banter also tended to get awkward, breaking the illusion of insouciant cool that the band had been building up.

Perhaps it was first-time jitters.

The pair, after all, have never been tested in a full-on, live setting.

Granted, at 50 minutes long, the gig was a little too short for them to prove their mettle, but as far as potential goes, this is one new band worth keeping an eye on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Tomgirl worth looking out for'. Subscribe