: Only Much Louder
Bangalore folk-rock outfit Swarathma’s latest album, Topiwalleh, comes three years after their debut. The title track, a bouncy reggae number hooks you from the very start.
A satirical take on the sorry state of political affairs in the country, the lyrics attract listeners as much as their clean guitar licks and violin fillers. Reggae always works — the band realises this and successfully cashes in on it with this stupendous production.
Switch to the next track Koorane, a guitar-heavy song that talks about the rising consumerist culture, and you know that vocalist Vasu Dixit can convey anger and regret just as easily as humour.
The painful violin solo is a killer. ‘Rishton ka raasta’ has a lilting, folksy melody coupled with earthy percussions. It’s the perfect marriage of lyricist Puneet Sharma’s fine words (gems like: ‘ek hi dard hai toh ek hi hogi dawa’) and the band’s musical expertise.
Through their 10 tracks, it is clear that Swarathma isn’t just a band that makes music. All their songs stand out for being performance friendly on stage. Hence the chorus lines, frequent chants, call-and-answers techniques and sonic/vocal experimentation in their album.
The high energy, oft-repeated refrain Khul ja re in the eponymous song drills into the listener’s head. The vocally harmonised chants of Ghum a song on child sexual abuse work for the same reason. The audio bytes of news reporters in ‘Aaj ki taaza fikar yahi’, a single they had released a few months ago, add novelty and break the monotony of a verse-chorus-solo format.
For those who love strings, Mukhota, with its syncopated rhythms, is great. Vasu’s powerful lead vocals may overwhelm the listener, but that’s where his strength lies.
He’s a performer, not just a singer. We’d have loved to hear more Kannada songs (there’s just Naane Daari) in the album, though.
What we like
* The energy
* The production
What we don’tlike
* The overdose of social-political messages