Skrat of Chennai have just upped the publicity game. Truth be told, the game’s in such sad shape that it doesn’t take much to raise the bar, but Skrat’s new effort measures up even on absolute terms. Their garage gig video, In the Shed, is superbly played and produced; what’s more, in the absence of a viable tour circuit, this kind of footage is exactly what bands should be releasing. Anyone would be proud.
The premise is pretty neat: the film shows the three lads in a garage playing straight through a set of under twenty minutes. The closest thing to frills are some manner of footage projected on one of the side walls and some nice touches with the lighting, which give it a bit of colour without being distracting. The burden of proof, therefore, lies upon the band’s live-playing abilities, and nothing else but. The setup is tidy, focussed, and good to look at. It’s pure efficiency.
There are three reasons why In the Shed is a smart idea. Most groups still haven’t got their heads around the fact that, unless you’re Lodger and your videos are integral to your songwriting, cutting a fully-fledged film, with actors and a storyline and so forth, (a) is a full-time job you’re probably not cut out for, (b) will inevitably distract you from your real business of making records and rehearsing for shows, and (c) given that it’s likelier than not going to be an art-bothering heap of visual non-sequiturs, will be something no one other than your best friends and a handful of head-in-arse scene-bugs will want to watch anyway.
In the Shed plays to Skrat’s one major strength, and it’s a strength that every group hoping to cut it in what passes for the live music business here should pay attention to: in the plainest of terms, they’re a tight, practised rock ‘n’ roll band, who have clearly worked on their sound and know their parts. That their video has gone for a successful run on Facebook testifies to the fact that, given a choice, your average punter would rather watch something with real people playing real instruments than a potheaded short, especially if it’s a good live act to start with, and especially because real gigs are hard to come by.
As for Skrat’s songs: on the universal guitar-music scale, which goes from Indus Creed’s Rock & Roll Renegade at zero to Drums & Wires at the pinnacle of achievement, Skrat come in higher than the halfway mark, which automatically puts them broadly on the side of “good”. They occupy ground between Jet and the Stone Temple Pilots, just under modern-day Foo Fighters (to round up the aeroplane-themed list – Sky Rat?), and alongside countless minor L.A. rock-type bands with not a lot of new ideas, but with great sound and a hard groove to work clubs with. The technical term for Tin Can Man is “pretty forking cool”, the rest swings from “mildly arsey” to “decent” and back. None of it is at all original or even particularly remarkable, though it’s a moot point if those things mean anything when it comes to a certain kind of rock music. It’s stuff which goes down better at colleges than with critics: this isn’t a bad move; it’s always more prudent to pick the pretty girls over the bloggers.
But it’s not Skrat’s music we’re here to discuss, it’s their gig film. In the Shed is clearly the product of thought and hard effort, and it’ll knock Skrat’s existence into more heads than any stop-motion creative work could. Keeping that crack about pictures and thousand words in mind, I’ll say that this is both an effective way to make a splash and the best press-kit they could’ve done for themselves. Nicely played, boys.
(Many thanks to my partner-in-crime, the Moop Nazi, for helping me get my thoughts on this together.)