Review Summary: On this Hong Kong band's 12-song debut, singer-songwriter-guitarist Phil Emond, bassist Gavin Ho, and drummer Patrick Neundorfer tour the modern rock universe, rubbing sonic shoulders with the titans of the genre
An Extraordinary Threesome: League of Gentlemen Rock Hong Kong
Rock and roll trios are like cheeseburgers: you can find one almost anywhere, but it’s hard to find a really good one. Done right, each derives power from simplicity--the perfect combination of three distinct ingredients. But there’s no room for error. If any part is even a little bit off, you’re screwed.
That’s why Hong Kong power trio League of Gentlemen is such a treat. It’s simple music done right. Killer guitars. Thumping basslines. Kick-ass drum fills. Choruses that make you sing along. What else you looking for in a rock band?
On their 12-song debut, “Introducing League of Gentlemen,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Phil Emond, bassist Gavin Ho, and drummer Patrick Neundorfer tour the modern rock universe, rubbing sonic shoulders with the titans of the genre. On the hard-charging “Outta My Head,” Emond’s gritty vocals conjure Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman Scott Weiland chanting through a megaphone seconds before a meltdown. Beneath the Red Hot Chili Peppers-style funk of “Dr. Fu Manchu,” Ho lays down a bassline that could knock Flea’s sock off. Neundorfer opens up “Charming Life” with a four-on-the-floor drumbeat that mirrors the balls-to-the-wall intro of the Nine Inch Nails rocket ship “1,000,000.”
But these guys aren’t copycats. League of Gentlemen is its own beast, drawing on its members’ diverse backgrounds to carve a niche in Hong Kong’s burgeoning rock scene. Emond is a schoolteacher from Toronto; Neundorfer is a pro hockey player turned investment banker from Cleveland; Ho is a Hong Kong native who works as a personal trainer when he’s not setting fire to the bass guitar. Emond and Neundorfer played together in a previous band, Lone Star Radio, before forming League of Gentlemen with Ho in 2012. Together, they make feel-good tunes that could only come from three musicians steeped in the Western rock tradition playing in Hong Kong, right now.
More than any song on the album, “Party Time Wasting” reflects the band’s singular place in time and space. To a catchy disco beat, Emond tells the story a Hong Kong financier slogging through the workweek, driven by the promise of letting loose on Friday night.
Get up, another Monday morning.
I never see, I never hear it coming.
I go to work, I go to work I have to.
Oh my god, I don’t really want to.
I sell things, I would never buy, no.
But it gives me, money for my life, so
I keep selling, hoping that I’ve sold enough.
It’s never enough, it’s never enough, no.
Bottoms up, pick me up, yeah.
Fill your cup at the endless disco weekend.
Party up, party time wasting!
“Party Time Wasting” paints a striking portrait of white-collar Hong Kong, where the young and work-weary--expats and locals alike--come together on Friday night to drink, dance, and party like there’s no Monday morning. It’s a lot like the scene at a League of Gentlemen show. “Lately, we’ve been playing to a broader audience, at festivals alongside bands singing in Cantonese and Mandarin,” says Neundorfer. “But we also play a lot of dive bars, art galleries, and house parties where the audience is mostly expats. The music scene here is relatively small compared to the U.S. and Canada, but the crowd seems to react in a similar way--drinking beers, shaking hips, and enjoying the vibe that good live music can create.”
Hong Kong infiltrates the music in mysterious ways, says Emond. “I was listening to the new Tragically Hip album, and although it’s just traditional, guitar, bass, and drums rock and roll, there’s something in the music that conjures the Canadian setting,” he says. “So I was wondering if my surroundings of the last 10 years--Hong Kong and Shenzhen--can be sensed in this music. It’s hard to say. Even though the songs are fiction, I think Hong Kong influences the imagery I use. Ultimately, I suppose it would be up to the local listener to say whether they see themselves in this music.”
For more about the band, check out www.lofgmusic.com.