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Boys at work

india Updated: Mar 05, 2010 23:52 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times
Cafe Oz

A couple of days ago, I discovered Cafe Oz in Delhi’s Khan Market. Munching on a luscious tenderloin ‘Outback Burger’ and burping ny way through a few medicinal-looking bottle of Victoria Bitter beers, I was enjoying the whole ‘Aussie ambience’ thing, when I realised that something was not quite right. It was, as always, the music. The Kylie Minogue track playing was alright, but what wasn’t was the Crowded House song that came after that — and repeated at least twice later. In the comment card at the end of my ‘G’day mate!’ meal, I suggested that Cafe Oz expand its piped music repertoire. I mean why have Princess Diana’s favourite band on your set list when you can play the less wussy music of dependable Aussie bands like AC/DC, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Men At Work, Wolfmother, the Vines and Jet?

Which made me come home and give a good listen to Shaka Rock the latest feisty album from Melbourne boys, Jet. The whiney remnants of the Crowded House frontman singing through one of his orifices, “Everywhere you go/ you always take the weaay-thar/with you” were quickly exorcised through the pesticide-smeared bassline trickle of Shaka Rock’s opening track, ‘K.I.A. (Killed In Action)’.

Okay, so the VBs had made me more friendly towards the classic rock punches of the song, especially the choral “Yeah, aha, aha, aha, aha, aha.” But with listeners with a predilection for straight-up rock, it works. The ska-flavoured stomp of ‘Beat on repeat’ has frontman Nic Cester doing his version of a Joe Strummer impression. The riff from the Knack’s ‘My Sharona’ comes in handy in ‘She’s a genius’.

There’s no real stand-out in the album. But tracks like ‘Black hearts (On fire)’ (with its words “Your heart’s on fire/ but you’re cold to the touch/ I know you want it/ but you love yourself too much” coming straight out of the AC/DC microwave), ‘La di da’, ‘Times like this’ (don’t miss the Doobie Brothers’ Listen to the music’ riff) can make for a good leather’n’ladies party. Especially if they play it at the Cafe Oz.

A little night music

Jazz f(r)iends, stop snickering. Yes, I’ve been quite taken by English singer-songwriter Corrine Bailey Rae’s new album The Sea. Even a loud bloke my me knows a good, shining thing when he hears one.
I first heard of (rather than heard) Corrine when she became only the fourth female musician in Britain to have her first eponymous album debut at No. 1. I haven’t got hold of that album yet, but listening to The Sea, with each track ebbing and flowing, I know the value of what that loud guy in curls Wolfgang Amadeus meant by ‘A little night music’.

‘Are you here’ is a hymn-like love song, inviting the listener to pull the curtains and sink into pure voice-music. Corrine’s voice grazes and lifts and sinks like a liquid that evaporates according to the mood that it’s in. The minimalism of ‘I’ll do it all again’ makes you pour another one — that comes in the form of ‘Feels like the first time’, a quicket soulful mix chaperoned by frisky snare drums and fleety guitar strums. ‘The blackest lily’ has a deceptive violence tucked away in it, especially with the pleadings “Colour my heart/ colour my heart/ make it restart/ make it restart” riding a plaintive guitar curve.

Corrine is playful in ‘Closer’, skipping down an R’n’B line as lightly as in the earlier jazz house chansons. But we get an unimpeded vision of the singer in ‘Love’s on its way,’ a soul-infused river of voice that breaks its bank — in the quietest, most subtle of ways — 2 minutes 45 seconds into the just-under 4 minutes-song before flowing into the proverbial sea.

Corrine has spoken about her beginnings as a singer in church (“People think it must have been a gospel church because of the whole, you know, black assumption, but it wasn’t gospel at all”) and doing covers of Primal Scream songs in the choir (“We changed the words though”). She even had a stint in an indie band — until the bassist got pregnant. It all shows in the hands-in-the-pockets ‘Paris nights/New York mornings’. It was during her years as a student in Leeds that she started singing jazz and soul in the local club.

And the clubroom smoke is very much hanging in the air in ‘I would like to call it beauty’ and ‘Diving for hearts’. Even with her not-always-jazz renderings, she so deserves to wear gardenias in her hair.