Noise of Decadence, Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 October, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 October, 1999, 12:00am

Noise Of Decadence Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre October 17 During a lull in the show, the audience erupts in banter.

Two girls fidget with their state-of-the-art mobile phones, comparing the number of missed calls.

A lavishly dressed young man rifles through his shopping, housed in a bag from an expensive boutique.

A young lad, supposedly trying to sound macho, berates one of the performers - a bespectacled guitarist - as looking like a 'frail student', while his female companion goes on for ages about how 'pro' her 'drum instructor' is.

Hardly the noise one expects from angst-driven youth - but here they are in all their glory, children of consumerism arriving for their neatly controlled amounts of decadence.

Any self-respecting musician in Hong Kong - including the six bands taking part in Noise Of Decadence - would probably be at pains to say that liking rock 'n' roll is more than a fashion statement. It is about rebelling against the straitjacket of the squeaky-clean mainstream, a resistance movement that aims to combat the conservatism of our age and the fallacies of modern society.

What usually brings local indie bands down, however, is that they do not have much to say. While most groups taking part in this showcase show excellent potential, being technically adroit is a terrible burden on these youngsters. Desperate to be taken seriously, their lyrical messages are drowned by musical meanderings.

The Plastic Gap and Love Motel, for example, are two groups that would be better tightened up while more innovation could be injected into Side-B's pitch-perfect homage to Radiohead.

The Pliable, meanwhile, easily attract scepticism with their singer's deja-vu tambourine-shaking swagger.

Equally susceptible to criticism are Elf Fatima and Charisma, two fully fledged bands verging on commercial greatness with proper melodies and deft musicians on board. These groups could easily turn out to be the next Zen - the classic example of an underground band stranded in middle-of-the-road land. But they know what they are doing and that, for the time being, scores points.

If only they could improve on their lyrics - most can claim the dubious accomplishment of making English sound like Amharic.