The pause button
There are many bands brimming with energy. Many of these bands, alas, brim only with that and not much else, musical prowess included.columns Updated: Jan 15, 2011 01:23 IST
There are many bands brimming with energy. Many of these bands, alas, brim only with that and not much else, musical prowess included. Delhi boys Menwhopause aren't one of them. Live, they radiate energy to the point that I'm sure they tank themselves up with bucketfuls of sugar before launching forth. And their music's not only tight but replete with hooklines and riffs and tunes that has kept them on top of the rock'n'roll pyramid on these shores of ours for a while now.
So when their new album Easy started to unfurl before me, I expected that trademark energy to ooze out of my speakers. In the first track 'Time', it was bottled and I couldn't find the bottle-opener. The music is layered, proactively 'Bombay retro' with its focus on instruments on display rather than sounding like a dam-break. And 3 minutes 55 seconds into the track, vocalist Sarabjit Singh suddenly breaks into what I swear is Manoj Kumar doing a 'ho, ho, oh-ho-hoho!' 'Jai jawan, jai kisan' throttle. But here's the thing. Towards the end, gears shift and Menwhopause become Menwhomove by getting into a more engaging version of the same number. But it's too late and I'm left wondering why the (over 6 minutes) song wasn't sliced in half and made to sound like its tail-end (which lasts for 25 seconds) from start to finish.
'Can't we be dreaming' has Sarabjit doing a Scott Weiland-Stone Temple Pilots soft number married to a Thom Yorke-Radiohead chorus. It's the kind of marriage that can't ever work out. Listening to 'Floating', I imagine myself pitter-pattering on a meadow in a frock after downing some E and mishearing a C-take of the Beatles' 'Across the universe'. "There is no right/ there is no wrong/ there is no thought control," the voice trembles and floats in the Alice in Wondergarh atmosphere.
Until I find myself in the clean expanses — the guitar-plucks seem to have been cleaned with Vim — of 'Solitude'. There's a lot of oooh-ooohs and echoes, the kind we associate with bands extolling nature, before we get to the meat of the song that finally reminds me that I'm listening to Menwhopause and not Toad the Dry Rocket. The corrosive chemical riff is searing and brings out a force that must have been lurking somewhere behind the amps, which is joined by nice, itchy percussions. Again, this is a song that should have started on its halfway mark.
'Puppets and paupers', a head-nodding track from their first self-released album Home, sounds dangerous. Anup Kutty's warm guitar crawls make the air shimmer. We're in Pinky Floydy terrain in 'Lost' while 'Sky is falling down' is a wide-eyed, harmonised throbbing song that wants to be a soundtrack of a dream but is really a lot of instruments playing at the same time.
In 'Brimful', the album has grown some balls, courtesy some slap'n'stop guitar play. I would have preferred Michael Stipe at the mike but the band probably knows best. 'Downtown' is even more laidback and Sarabjit's vocals haven't moved an inch from wherever it was in the last song — that is until there's a guitar eruption (two actually) that doesn't seem to fit anywhere except in a prog rock revival gig.
'Sweet despair', another song from Home, has some early morning vocal exercises on display. I like the insect feet-rubbings of Keep, but the killer riff is squandered on a tame song. 'Father monologue' (the third Home track) needed an octane rush that does come later but again after the horse has bolted. 'Circles' could be the lost track from the Forrest Gump soundtrack, trying to get some epoch-changing feelings into it. Someone must have pressed the wrong button by mistake to put the title track on the tape. It's a fidgety ditty that's lost on me.
Which is when the truth hits me: Easy must be one of those concept albums. What I can't fathom for the life of me is why no one sifted the sonic wheat from the chaff in individual songs. There are some hot flushes buried in the ice. All this band needs is the right pick-axe. And a good back-up singer.