Peter Cat Recording Company should have been called the Suryakant Sawhney Show. The skinnier-than-thou frontman peering over a nose built for looking down over with his huge, stoned eyes is self-evidently lord and master of all who share the stage with him, and his backing band, though competent, a puppet government. PCRC are a singular group; I’m tempted to say they don’t make them like that any more, but I’m not sure they ever did.
How unlikely, though: a group which seems to be a washing-up ground for minor keys, a tenor out of a black-and-white world, cinema kitsch and big, sickly sounding fake-strings, and all this here in India? And who starts a show with a waltz? I’ve seen them twice, the first was a tight affair at the Big Mushroom Cloud, the second, a shambolic run through their one record at an incongruous club with armchairs and the sort of air which makes you stick your pinky out as you sip at your drink. No matter: both shows were memorable. And this, on the strength of their material, Suryakant & boys’ obvious ease on stage – cheeky patter, dicking about – and Suryakant’s own command of his surroundings and himself as singer and frontman.
It’s hard to overstate not just how improbable their songs are, but how well-done they sound, at odds with the wilfully scruffy, potty-mouthed lads playing them, at odds with the entire country they are trotted out in. They remind me of big, cosy words like “songcraft”, “classic” and “bouncy”, and yet they all wooze along a little, like hearing your favourite sixties misfits from under water, like a bottle-waving drunkard weaving home on his way to an attack of melancholia, a pass-out, and a shocking hangover the morning after. That’s the thing: they’re bottle-waving pop.
What is jarring, therefore, is that the purveyors of such a remarkable album’s worth are completely, totally at a loss when it comes to material other than their own. Their set runs to a pitiful three quarters of an hour and, pressed to play longer by popular demand, all they can pull out is the same songs they just did, all over again, a move that was later explained by the oaf managing them – if that’s what he was doing – as being “at least better than playing covers”. Now, there’s a daft way to excuse being caught with your pants down, but, one way or another, people with hopes of making a career of this need to do better than run dry at the first call for an encore.
Again, no matter, or not just yet. Listen to PCRC’s record at least once, they aren’t what passes for “good” in the cock-in-mouth effusiveness of small-scene reviewing: they’re better than that, and aim higher. They’re younger off-stage and more naive than they look at first: the swagger boils down to four eager potheads with an ear for a tune. They’ve found a musical corner that brims with possibilities and mined a great little album from it; now we’ll just have to wait and see how far they take this trick from here.