I’m going to get a clamp to hold my jaws shut, I’m beginning to feel a little foolish. I’ve gone at Harsha Iyer’s record from all angles, I’ve held it up to the light, sniffed at it and tried stomping on it, played it back-to-back with the Beatles to try and humiliate it; whatever I do, the little fucker stays persistent in being a gem. I’m not daft. I can tell a genuinely great record from a heroic teenage effort. I can tell when I like something because I’ve held it to simpler standards than otherwise, like how you’re sometimes kinder about your friends than they truly merit. It’s irrelevant that the boy’s nineteen. It’s irrelevant that he’s played all his instruments himself. When you do a record like this, you don’t deserve a handicap.
Harsha Iyer’s album broadly goes in three directions, galloping and bouncy power pop, moody and bouncy power pop, and abrasive dwelling-inside-own-head bouncy power pop. In all of this, he addresses such personal concerns as are occupying him at the time, so we know he finds her boring, he knows when she’s being overcautious (or overcautious, he knows when she’s being) etc. all doled out in a snotty played-up whine. He does full and fleshy arrangements, no instrument is too small, and it’s not unusual to hear a rock-n-roll song unexpectedly break out into tinkle-tinkle pianos and trumpets, the various backward guitar and accordion bits sound entirely in place, the generous spread of I’m Only Sleeping harmonies wrap all of this up very cosily.
A word on the quality of production: high. Harsha Iyer comes with a mid-sixties pop man’s ear for arrangements and either he, or whoever’s helping him along, has enough skill at working the studio to get all this down on tape without sliding into a bachelor’s-flat of clashing instruments and musical litter. He’s also, as it happens, an excellent bass player and guitarist – his scraping, fuzz-boxed approach to guitar playing is the pulsing heart of the album. The harmonies are – maybe – the soul, they elevate the whole of it. And don’t let the punk moaning fool you, he’s got a voice on him too, not for hitting the high notes because sometimes he doesn’t, but because he knows how to phrase things and how to stutter when he needs to and yodel when the time is right, all of which are rare and handy tricks to have up your sleeve if you want to do this better than everybody else.
Niggling irritant: at about the tenth track (there are twelve) the album seems to go off inward into itself – Fear etc. – or maybe I’m just impatient. Still. It’s his record and he can do as he wishes. What’s important is this: it’s silly-stupid-happy news that somebody’s gone and made something like this and there should be drinks all around, and dancing girls if we can find them. And a great album cover to boot, the man clearly doesn’t do half-measures. It’s all about hope and potential. Harsha Iyer sounds like he’s about to launch himself skywards with a huge nuclear rumble; as he speeds on to the moon, I hope he leaves behind many more records, pushing himself higher and faster with each one.