Saturday, July 21, 2007

Where Rowling met Harry

I’ve not read a single Harry Potter. Therefore, I’ve not read too much about JK Rowling, either.
But I can’t escape the hype and the hoopla, as my children are 18 and 20, and they’ve been brought up on a diet of dal, sabzi, chawal and Potter.
And this morning, as the world went potty over Potter, I wondered about who inspired Rowling to name the protagonist Harry.
Harry Houdini, the incredible escape artist?

“Dirty” Harry Callahan, the inspector who took on the dirtiest of cases and magically nailed the criminals responsible?

Or Harry S (for nothing) Truman, who defied the pollsters and became President of the United States?

Or a Harry I can’t recall?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And Vengaboys is retro

Whenever one reads the word "vernacular" in a context that seems to look down on it, I remind myself that, to the English speaking, English is the vernacular. And then the word changes in meaning.

Similarly, retro music, which, to me, would refer to the Beatles and Chicago and America and Little River Band and Simon and Garfunkel -- you get the drift -- will have new meaning 20 years from today.

Retro will refer to Vengaboys and Peter Andre and Michael Learns to Rock -- you get the drift, again.

By then retro won't be my preferred music genre. It'll be classical. And I'll be listening to the Beatles and Chicago and America and Little River Band and Simon and Garfunkel.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Of pigs with wings and cabbages and kings

One would think I need to get involved with another blog like I need a hole in my head. But I painted myself into a corner when I told the world (the 27 of them who visit pigsandwings, that is) that I would write only about media, advertising and marketing.

So when Phish invited me to write for his new blog, I saw a way out of the corner.

So I could blog about the entire world outside of media, advertising and marketing. About books, about food, about alcohol, about friends, about music. About India born Peter Sarstedt, and Where do you go to, (my lovely), which I first heard when I was about 8 years old, and I found again on a CD collection (Best Nostalgic Songs in the world ever!) at Crossword last Sunday.

And that should tell you that I’m old, and that I can’t handle phrases such as playlists and gizmos such as iPods. I like the old days when you listened to music album after album, and you knew the next song that would play without having to distract yourself with “shuffling”.

And I think it would take a crazy playlist that afforded me the magic of King Cole’s Unforgettable, Louis Armstrong’s What a wonderful world and Belafonte’s Jamaica farewell one after another -- as this CD does.

The rest of the album features Vincent, Killing me softly with his song, Raindrops keep falling on my head, Rose Garden and Speedy Gonzales.

That’s another reason I accepted Phish’s invitation. He can understand Kastadyne.

Shit. I forgot. Right Said Fred did a cover of Sarstedt’s song. Perhaps I’m not so old, after all.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Eleven Complaints - Kastadyne

Probably the best thing to do when reviewing music is to do it after one long continuous hearing. That way you don’t let any particular song influence your judgment. Just when you think you are being affected (like/dislike, love/hate don’t work for me) by one you quickly move on to the other. (Much like the handsome/mysterious strangers Punjabi girls meet at their friend’s wedding in quick succession. Infrequently).

Getting back to the point, this way you remember every track for exactly what it was worth. Your personal equation with the song becomes unimportant. You feel the sound, get used to it and you react to the album as one whole. With the breaks in the middle working efficiently as pacifiers.

When I was requested to do a review for Kastadyne’s debut album, Eleven Complaints, I treated it the same way. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Kastadyne is a young band. And I do not mean merely ‘new’. Both the band members are well under twenty and have been fiddling with music since school. I have been a passive critic of their numerous attempts to cut and record songs for a good part of two years. And it’s only natural that I write a review of their debut offering.

Eleven Complaints is nothing short of audacious. From the album art to the tracks there’s nothing about this CD that makes you want to ignore it. It is aggressive. It is different. And it knocks the socks out of you. Not with its loudness (and it is deliciously loud) but by the sheer punch factor. When you were least expecting it.

Tejas’ soft strumming is a great alter-ego for Sheldon’s powerful vocals. In fact the character of the album is set by these two working in tandem over eleven tracks. Their personal chemistry is evident as the transitions from the classic guitar riffs (made popular by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Who) move effortlessly into a modern Seattle grunge. And it’s all there. The dirty distortions. The fuzz. The raspy vocals.

The album starts off with what will easily become their most popular track. “Victim of my Anger” is a furiously paced, edgy number that deals with urban angst. It’s the most grungy track of the album by far. There’s great guitar, great vocals and the overall track lingers in your mind long after the second one’s started playing.

The next track that you really can’t miss is their tribute to Kurt Cobain. ‘Never Mind’ is about loss and how. Subtle acoustic guitars show a soft, sensitive side of the two that is tempting enough for you to plead them to continue. In fact, personally this track in all its niceness feels a little overdone. ‘All the power’ on the other hand is pure punk rock. The hip-hop influence is also evident. But the real hero in the track remains the lyrics. “the hand, the tiger and lotus deny you”.

The vocal quality of Sheldon can be best appreciated with “Laugh”. It is a downright eerie track that shows the band is not afraid to experiment. “You sell guns and bombs on a sunny day”. Heavy. ‘I Don’t Know Why’ is a personal favourite. It is one of those rare gems that grows on you. A distinct heavy metal influence overrides the song that beautifully builds into a steady drumming frenzy. And there lies a curious eighties quality to the feel. Uriah Heep anyone?

‘Greedy needs’ is an ok track that begins with a lot of promise but is rather overdone by the end of it all. In fact that remains a problem with the Kastadyne sound. Sometimes the tracks, I felt should be left open. A little starker and this could have been easily one of the ’25 most played’ tracks on everyone’s iPod. ‘Rat Race’ also falls into this category. It leaves you grasping for space with the distortions and transitions that just feel unnecessary.

‘Blur in the mirror’ again sways you by the vocals. The classic rock feel and steady guitars give it mass appeal and one feels that this can turn out to be one of their best live numbers if softened up a bit. The lyrics particularly stand out.

‘Chickenator’ and ‘Don’t Waste the Bullet’ are both super attempts. Both the tracks are old favourites, but this time I really dig the mixing. And the instrumentation is solid gold. The former shows a teeny bopper streak that the kids have and is probably just the kind of sound that young America laps up. It is also the most innocent number of the album. The strains of angst and despondency have given way to a cheery excitement that makes it peppy and very, very youth. ‘Don’t Waste the Bullet’ stands out for its exceptional lyrics and mature guitar play. ‘You put me in pain, lots and lots of pain’. Yeah, you do guys.

Eleven Complaints is a noteworthy debut. No covers. But eleven original tracks that showcase a unique ability to stand out. It is no surprise that ‘Victim of My Anger’ has hit #1 in a very popular alternative music website. While writing about them one struggles with comparisons. It is grunge, it is punk, it is indie rock, it is metal, it is classic rock. I don’t know. What I do know is they have a rather unique ability to shift in and out of genres. Breaking every rule in the book to emerge with a sound that’s previously unheard. But there are problems as well. Inconsistent transitions and the lack of a good drummer leave the band wanting in its need for spontaneity. The sound is great but is largely overdone in parts that affects the overall feel. Some pure acoustic numbers would go a long way to quell these doubts. Also, these guys are way too angry and a soft ballad just might help curb listener boredom. But that I will leave these two talented youngsters to mull over for their next album as I get back to my regular job of selling sub-standard soap and underwear.

This is an awesome debut. By any standards.

to know more about kastadyne click here

a little step

I have a blog already. People read it. Comment upon it. Find it funny. Inpiring. Insipid. I get fan mail. Hate mail. Junk mail. Much more mail than that is required to lead a healthy, semi-pious life in a big city. In my attempts to deal with the aforementioned life, I come across things, people, set-ups that sometimes I think I should talk about. Books. Restaurants. People.The educated call it a review.

So would I, in a brutal sense of the word.