The Observatory – Blank Walls Launch (Esplanade Recital Studio, 2 Sept 2005)

When I returned to Singapore from London in 2003, I was so depressed that I lost all my “overseas excess” weight effortlessly within a few months. During these, probably some of the worst months of my life, one particular night still stands out as atypical – it was the night I visited the Esplanade for the first time, fell in love with the place, and realized that there was indeed something Singapore could offer me that England couldn’t. (Granted, it’s now two years later and I can’t actually say I’ve discovered a second thing, but let’s not go into that.)

The visit in question was to see Kreidler in the Recital Studio. A local band opened for them. I had no idea who they were, or what people thought of them. I just listened. And was blown away.

That local band was The Observatory, and what an introduction they were to a scene I knew nothing about. I don’t know how long they’d been together at that point or how many gigs they’d done before that one, but I think they were fairly newly formed and don’t think their first album had been released yet. I found out in time to come that they were, well, pretty famous.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps portentously, since that night the band (and the Esplanade) seem to have been present at a number of the rare moments in my life here where I am actually content to live in the moment, in Singapore. So due to that almost overdramatically sentimental part of my psyche which assigns symbolic meaning to certain experiences of mine, they have become rather special to me for reasons which go far beyond the music they play.

This is why I was very happy to attend Friday’s launch gig on Friday for their second album, back in the Recital Studio where I suppose you could say it all started for me.

I’d heard many of the songs already at previous gigs, but almost all stood up strongly to repeated listening. My Whole Life is probably my favourite album track, though I tend to prefer Sea Of Doubts live.

The only two I wasn’t keen on were Finch, which I have heard multiple times live and have hated every time, and Olives, which I’m undecided about. It’s odd, I really should like Olives a lot more than I do because it sounds so Sonic Youthy, but it’s just never worked for me the three times I’ve heard it live. I feel stupid saying this, but Leslie Low’s voice is almost too nice for the song’s discordant guitars, and it ends up detracting from them for me. It sounds a little better on the album, maybe because his voice is louder in the mix there, but I’m still not fond of it. Having said that, I do think it took balls to pick one of the most challenging songs on the album as first single, and I do actually hope it does well. Maybe it’ll grow on me.


  1. The first time I heard Humpback Oak was in the now-defunct Pacific Plaza Tower, when the “Pained Stained Morning” first came out. I had heard the hype about this great new local band that was to be the “saviour of the Singapore rock scene”. And they played it in the store (very unlikely scenario), and once the music fitted the description, I knew it had to be them, and I remember listening, amazed at how finally a “local” band had gotten it right.

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