When it’s Crap: the Return of Harsha Iyer

So, young Harsha. I swore to you once that if your new record sucked, I’d personally come down and set you on fire. I’m going to keep my promise: once I’m done writing this, I’m ringing the butler for kerosene, a box of matches, and a train ticket to where you live.

Okay, forget I said “sucked”. It doesn’t suck per se, not the way James Blunt or Hoobastank or any of those other merchants of mush suck. But you’re dangerously near, and what galls me isn’t what your record is, but what it might have been, and isn’t.

What gives, boy? You made such an impression with that neat little gem that was Curious Toys; why would you go and squander all that hard-earned goodwill with something that feels like the musical equivalent of a kitsch dealers’ basement?

Because that’s what When it’s Time is: and all the bells and whistles you’ve smothered it with will never hide the fact that, underneath, there’s nothing you can sink your teeth into.

And that’s a terribly dreary thing to have to discover.

Where’s the humour, Harsha? Where’s the neatness? The artistic focus? Were you so taken in with the idea of your own Brian Wilson masterpiece that you didn’t stop to think if your little acoustic songs would survive the oppression of those suffocating, plastic arrangements? What’s your game, are you trying to prove to the world that you were better than all those scrappy kids with electric guitars who dwell in my beloved Madras Underbelly?

If that’s the idea, then let me tell you this: it’s the easiest thing in the world today to slap ten violins, three cellos, a brass section, and a donkey’s arse on to a record. But you can’t polish a turd, as they say, and, if your songs aren’t up to speed, no amount of grand-sounding studio trickery will ever save them. That’s the trouble, Harsha: you can have an entire orchestra come oozing out of your computer at the press of a button these days, but there is still no substitute for vision.

It’s good to be ambitious, and you were perfectly right to push yourself beyond the limits of your first album. And, what’s more, you should aim for precisely that, again, and again, and again. But don’t be fooled by the tools you have on hand, because you, like so many musicians now, have access to a whole universe of sounds and instruments: and that might just be more than you know what to do with.

Big isn’t always beautiful, and size doesn’t equal substance. Cack-handed preaching about alcoholic lovers will never be poetry, glittering musical bits and bobs will not replace the art of arrangement.

I know what you were dreaming of, Harsha: that this would be the great, grand musical wonder with whose help you’d leave the scruffy world of rock ‘n’ roll and come into your own as a composer of classical proportions. But guess what? What you have on your hands is as flat as a two-bit high-school drama: a lot of textbook tricks for making something sound big and serious, without the muscle to really be so.

You’re a fucking talented lad and you know it. Now, don’t let your ambition cloud your judgement. Ease up a bit, yes? Dick around, let your imagination do the talking, not your career-conscious waking mind. A lot of people will tell you that When it’s Time is “lush” and “sweeping” and “profound” and all of those things which every artist who plays around with horns and strings secretly wants to hear. But “sweeping” is no good when you wind up getting swept nowhere: punch above your weight the next time, H., this trick is too easy.

19 thoughts on “When it’s Crap: the Return of Harsha Iyer

  1. This is a brutally frank review, Harsha and I really feel that Mooper’s done you a favour by being that honest about it. I know it stings in places, but try to see the moopsome humour in there. Your first record was gloriously promising and in all honesty, this was such a disappointment that my mind ached when I tried to hear it the fourth time. Instead, I put on Curious Toys, drank heavily and felt like shit about everything for a week. If I were you, I’d write off the losses, put a band together and go back to rock n’ roll, meat and potatoes.

  2. I know! I was SO disappointed when I heard it, I could hardly believe it was the same guy who did Curious Toys!- Let Me Into Your House was the only track which kinda reminded me- everything else made me go like, “okay, so?”

    Oh and the song writing- it’s whiny.

  3. A couple of things Moop City didn’t call you on, you dope. Just because your lyrics refer to “John” or “Harry” or “Mr Smith”, they don’t automatically become characters in an epic human story of trials and hardship, no matter how much you want them to be. And please learn the difference between “your” and “you’re” because it’s really embarrassing for the amount of glossed-over media coverage *you’re* getting, or *your* album is getting. It’s back to the drawing board with you after this, kid. Parting shot – I couldn’t resist, I’m sorry -: a drawing board that hopefully includes a lesson or two about grammar and punctuation, besides on how to rhyme and phrase your lyrics better.

  4. “When you walk into a shoe store and a shoe you pick dont fit ur feet,
    you dont just give up..you simply search for the size that does”

    He said it, I didn’t.

  5. Focus kid, Focus. Stop singing like a psuedo cool guy, not working. Very few people can sing like how you are trying to (including one fish eyed poet). Stop listening to Hans Zimmer. Focus.

  6. Harsha Iyer was praised high and low by our scene media. But that doesn’t mean that everything he touches turns to gold. Good to see someone took him to task over it. Pay attention, Harsha.

  7. This is mainly directed towards comments.

    Who the fuck are all of you to tell him to shut shop and go back to “rock’n’roll” ? While I agree this record is terrible, your advice for him is to stop exploring and go back to something he already did half decently ( Frankly, I’m not too fond of Curious Toys either but it had the stench of promise on it at-least).

    Yes, he tried to do something grand and failed and if you pointed this out and moved on, it would be fine. Unfortunately, you seem to be acting like his overbearing mothers or something and pushing him towards a direction which suits your tastes and ideals.Get off your high horse and just let the kid fuck around, make grand failures , try and extract a goddamn orchestra out of his computer if he wants to and learn the true need of song-craft and melody himself. He’s not here to cater to the needs of the Indian scene.

    AND I get it already.There’s a fat Madrasi in Chennai waiting to vomit out all this precious music but you know what. For everything those boys are doing, and they’re doing it very well. They are not taking chances ( Spare me the , “oh we’re in India and they’re doing something raw and unheard here”) . They’re just trying to repeat something the Americans and Europeans did 30 odd years ago while adding NOTHING of their own to the sound and experience of that brand of music. I’m not saying emulation is not a worthy goal but its 2012.There’s so MUCH out there.You need to venture out, cover your dick in marmalade and roll around in everything out there before you post your flag somewhere and say this is what I’ll do.

    @ Elementary Penguin :Your an idiot. No wait. You’re an idiot.

  8. ‘Not Really’, you actually do make a lot of sense. Noone is anyone to push him in a direction where he supposedly should be headed. At 20, there is all the time in the world for him to explore whatever sounds he wants and get inspired by whatever he wants, make mistakes big and small and find out what he really wants to be.

    The last bit about the other Chennai bands not really aspiring to do something different and contemporary – I’m assuming you are talking primarily about Kishore Krishna and The Shakey Rays. I’d not want to imagine the potential disaster a Shakey Rays record could very likely be if they tried to incorporate sounds from say, present-day UK electronica into their music. As another journalist pointed out in a review of their first record – They are vintage, and not retro – and given that music from bygone era’s are as accessible to us today through the internet as this week’s Billboard listing, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them picking their influences from 70 to 30 years ago and giving us such outstandingly crafted records as Tunes From The Big Belly or Snakeism.
    Yes there is so much out there today, but they pick from that pile what they can do best and stick to the same, and that is about the best thing they can do, in my opinion.

  9. I kind of agree with Not Really. I’m sick of this tendency to mine obscure (and not so obscure) corners of our musical past for inspiration instead of actually trying to move forward. This isn’t about Indian bands per se (I think PCRC, Kishore and the Shakey Rays are putting out some great stuff), but the internet seems to have made lazy genre-trope stealing, tribute-paying parasites out of our indie/pop song-writers. As much as I like the occasional psycho-billy revival or a kitschy mish-mash of seemingly incompatible micro-genres from 70s Alabama, that’s not enough god-dammit! Where are the people who are trying to move us into the future instead of constructing their idea of cool on their knowledge of that one 40 year old home-recorded garage EP by a couple of hillbillies from the Northwest of the United States?

    Jolene: “Yes there is so much out there today, but they pick from that pile what they can do best and stick to the same”

    Since when has this been an acceptable attitude in independent music? Yes, you can have influences from 30 years ago, but if your music isn’t rooted in the here and now then it is most probably going to be shitty, irrelevant pop music. If you look at popular music as a site of negotiation for larger youth culture, then this trend means that we’re all stuck in some sort of sick, paralyzing nostalgia for the golden days of our imagination.

    As for the record, massively disappointed. Curious Toys was great fun despite (and sometimes because of) its flaws. This one is just blah. Not terrible, just not engaging enough for me to have an opinion of it.

  10. the reason everybody’s been clamoring about going to rock and roll etc, is because the songwriting in the album is essentially in those lines, its the arrangement and production(not engineering) that is trying hard to make it something else. its not so much a direction, but more an revelation.

  11. Here’s to hoping the next record will kick ass.
    Personally, I didn’t enjoy this album that much, but there’s still a part two to look forward to. And if you’re talking about doing something ” new ” and ” different ” listen to some Dubstep instead. Every bit of music is influenced by something or someone. And if you listen to what the ” Madrasi ” boys are actually saying, it’s definitely rooting in the here and now.

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