HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: The Vampire of Siam

by Lang Reid

Another ‘first book’ this week, from American Jim Newport, an Emmy nominated production designer for both film and TV. His book, The Vampire of Siam (ISBN 9-7483-0380-2, Asia Books 2003) has plaudits on the back cover proclaiming that his “intimate knowledge of the Far East makes this an ultra-realistic journey into terror.”

To be perfectly frank, I had problems with this book and its much vaunted realism from the outset. The principal character, a Martin Larue, is described as being “wealthy beyond measure” and yet works as a scribbler for a Bangkok English language daily newspaper. I have met people who are rich beyond measure, and I have met scribbling colleagues from all over the world. I have yet to meet anyone that combines both of these descriptions. Whilst not mutually exclusive, it must go close.

While still on the “intimate knowledge of the Far East” I must make an observation here (and it does not just refer to this particular book) in that if the author wishes to use existing places to impart that feeling of realism to a work of fiction, then the author has to get it right. To use Pattaya’s Royal Cliff as a backdrop and describe a two storey villa with private pool overlooking the cliff with a 200 foot drop to the rocks is wonderful descriptive writing, other than the fact that the Royal Cliff does not have private villas with pools, and by no stretch of the imagination is there a 200 foot drop, even down the lift shaft to the beach.

If that is not enough, one of the characters “grabbed a security guard’s pistol and knocked a startled bellboy off his motorbike.” In the Royal Cliff? Please, I am conversant with the property, and whilst it is indeed very large, bellboys do not ride motorcycles within its perimeter, and the security guards are not armed.

Glossing over these small, unimportant details (to the storyline anyway) the fabulously rich Larue becomes involved with a wonderfully wise 175 year old vampire named Ramonne. The vampire needs Larue, as he has to make regular payments to a corrupt Bangkok policeman to keep him off his back, and Larue has the money. They form a bond and in return for the readies, Ramonne shows Larue a new kind of nightlife in Bangkok. You will be glad to know that it still involves available peasant girls from Isan and Patpong Road and the proclivities for which it is famous.

Ramonne, however, introduces a different type of post-coital afterglow which includes exsanguination. How Larue manages to escape from the vampire and help him shuffle off this mortal coil without the aid of sharpened stakes is the finale.

The review copy came directly from the publisher and had an RRP of 385 baht. For the fans of Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, it is probably a great read. For myself, I will continue to ask my journalist colleagues if they are rich beyond measure. I think that one of those would be far more rare than finding a vampire in Lumpini Park.

Mott's CD Reviews: flow - roots

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

4 1/2 Stars

First, I am sure you noticed, this dog usually gets his capital letters in the right places. However, those young pups from flow do not like to use capital letters in their name and CD titles, and who am I to argue? After all, the Beatles couldn’t spell. flow’s second album in their trilogy (seeds, roots, and flowers), roots comes two years after the first album and confirms flow as one of Thailand’s leading rock bands, although only Mit Witchitwatee was born in Thailand; the rest of the band has made Thailand their home.

In all departments of their trade flow has come on in leaps and bounds. Out the front, when flow takes to the live stage, is Rick Montembeault. As well as being the sole songwriter in the band, he also possesses one of the most unique and emotive voices in Rock ‘n’ Roll. Rick’s collection of songs flow beautifully throughout the album. Opening with the introductory ‘flow river flow’, which builds from a quiet beginning allowing each member of the band to slowly integrate themselves into the song. Straight away it is thrust into your ears. The regular gigs all over Thailand have made the band tighter and their confidence is infectious.

The rhythm section of Peter Fleischhaker together with Mit Witchitwatee fair punch each song, Peter playing his bass guitar in the more modern style, like a lead instrument, rather than traditionally as a rhythm instrument to underpin the song (especially on the rocky ‘easier to be gone’). Mit Witchitwatee’s drumming is also pushed right to the front of the mix. If his funky drumming was a feature of seeds, then he excels himself on roots, cementing his place as Thailand’s drummer’s drummer.

On lead guitar and star of the live set is the man with more nicknames than he can remember, Roland Fleischhacker, a.k.a. ‘The Character’, or to most of his friends ‘Breez’. Breez’s (see, Mott the Dog’s a friend) guitar playing throughout is exemplary and is the only lead guitarist that flow could ever have as he manages to play in all the different styles that Rick Montembeault’s songs demand. You are never going to get bored listening to a flow album. Even through this one Breez’s playing leaves you in no doubt that you are listening to a collection of flow songs. One of my small gripes about this set is that Breez is only once allowed to blow up into a hurricane with his axe playing (during ‘hey old man’). For two and a half minutes Breez rips through his strings bringing the song to a roaring climax. I hope on the final piece of the trilogy Breez is given a little more rope to let it all hang out. It certainly would add so much more excitement to proceedings.

Unfortunately third song in ‘non-song’ is exactly as the title suggests, and perhaps could have been left on the cutting room floor. It sounds a bit like an outtake from seventies spoof band Alberto Y Los Trios Paranois, thereby incurring the loss of half a star. But this is more than made up for by what follows in ‘the money song’, ‘then there’s me’ and the amazing ‘wooden indian’. They are the central songs of the set and are by far the best songs ever to come from the pen of Rick Montembeault. If you had to pick one song it would have to be ‘wooden indian’ with its Led Zeppelin influences flying high. Hey, everybody has influences; best to get them from the top. ‘wooden indian’ is a tribute to native North Americans. It is hard to think of a better crafted song in the world of rock music and is worth the price of the CD on its own.

To add to the splendor, the talents of ‘Life After Nine’ (whose debut album ‘Stomp’ is a must for any lover of good time music) violinist Steve Cipolline have been used on the song, giving flow’s sound a whole new dimension. Showing complete unity with Thailand’s musicians, the multi-talented keyboard player Keith Nolan of ‘Cannonball’ has also gainfully been employed. Now there is an idea, next time flow graces Pattaya or Chang Mai with a concert, perhaps they could bring these two with them. Now that would be something to behold.

‘the money song’ is not only a very fine rocker, it’s also very funny to boot. The glee in Rick Montembeault’s vocals as he sings

“Money makes the world go round, But why?

It can’t buy happiness, But it’s fun to try,

And you can’t take it with you when you die,

In the end only cockroaches, Keith Richards, and money will survive,

Money is evil, And I should know because I’m poor,

Money is evil, But I’ll need more to be sure.”

Great stuff, Doubloons indeed. Music to tap your foot to and put a smile on your face. Final song ‘the wheel keeps turning’ brings the whole set to a rousing conclusion.

The album comes in a gatefold digi-pack with a separate booklet with lots of photos, all the lyrics and as much information as you are likely to need on the band, all designed by long time flow stalwart Richard Wilson. All in all a very nice package. I look forward to the final chapter of the trilogy - flowers. As flow say, roots - dig in and dig it.
Rick Montembeault - guitar and lead vocals
Breez - lead guitar and vocals
Mit Witchitwatee - drums and percussion
Peter Fleischhacker - bass guitar and vocals
flow river flow
easier to be gone
the non-song
the money song
then there’s me
wooden Indian
hey old man
don’t push the river
the wheel keeps turning

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]