I’ve written about this band before when I happened to have stumbled on to one of their gigs in Calcutta many moons ago. Cassini’s Division on stage is a ferral, exciting phenomenon fronted by the raging-at-times, lilting-at-times Rahul Guha Roy. A couple of weeks ago, their debut album landed on my lap. The verdict — as they say in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court these days — is pleasurable and with spikes of genuine dark sunbursts. But these surges that come across the album isn’t the series of pile-ups I expected to hear. Instead, they come in patches like a few blistering moments in an otherwise sedate, decent Test match.
Ringside View — a clever play on boxing terminology as depicted on the album’s cover and the name of the band (Cassini’s division is the astronomical term for the largest gap between Saturn’s many rings) — is a slick mix of downright rock replete with verse-chorus-verse and rapperboy wordplay along with some dated reverb action on the guitars.
But if I am to go by the opening track ‘Glowworm’, Cassini’s blown out the fuses with one massive attack of a great track without doubt. It starts on a sticky macaroni-style guitar-bass plucking and drums. Rahul munches out the words, “I’m completely out of control/my ship has no radar, no receivers, no faders/ and I’m okay, a lot of drugs they say/ have changed me in some fundamental way.” What comes after takes me, my ship armed with the finest radars totally unaware. The chorus line, “And I fly just like Salvador Dali/like glowworm, yeah glowworm/I’m a bird from Happy Valley” comes as a tsonic tsunami, the guitars, the drum crashes all tightened into a fist and hitting one mad g-spot. I’d stick my neck out and say that it’s the most primal, tuneful sonofabitch chorus to have come out on CD from a rock band this side of the Indus.
What follows is the mellow yellow reverb-sloshed ‘Story of my life’. The duba-waba that Rahul drolls out doesn’t quite trip off his tongue as was planned in the script. The much loved live track the band performs out on stage, ‘Caesar’, a fratboy version of that Shakespearan rag, also suffers in translation across the sound system. The frenetic ska doesn’t enthuse at all. Instead, it just sounds like a smart-ass turning his tutorial into a rap song, expecting applause from grown-ups.
Actually, that’s what it is last-minute growls and sexy guitar waka-waka notwithstanding. The problem continues in ‘Night without end’, that’s more a libretto from a Parsi opera than a rock or a roll song. The music lacks the tightness and wall of sound that was so much evident in the first track. Thankfully, ‘Drown’ returns to the hook and jive that Cassini’s is really good at (surely they know that?). The music returns to that pummell-pop zone inhabited once upon a time by the likes of Gavin Rossdale’s Bush; and Sukanti Roy is perfect with the guitar buzz — not too much, not too little.
‘Cut to the chase’ is more of Rahul trying to be a sort of Anthony Kiedis with more of that reverb nonsense. (What is it with this band and all that tacky reverb guitar!) ‘Stay’ is Ian Anderson minus the flute... but with some great string-bending guitar. ‘Satyr 9’ has a gem tucked away inside it. Only if it wasn’t covered by a bit too many kinds of sounds for comfort.
Ringside View has two great tracks, a truckload of inventiveness and downright great mix of guitars and lyrics — an underrated combo. But it also has quite a few duds, with many of the tracks crying out even as they come out of the speakers to be cut and polished, snipped and tucked. Cassini’s have the fuel. Only if they lose that reverb. The crash and burn is so obviously their sound.