It takes a lot of doing, and the stars and the gods aren’t usually in favour, but there is still such a thing as a good night out – a genuinely good night out, I mean, not one of those where you have to grit your teeth and force yourself to believe that yelling yourself hoarse over an oblivious crowd drunk to idiocy is somehow more genuinely fun than just staying in and wanking to cam sites, listening to the Heebie Jeebies’ Greatest Hits – and, no, not even the broken, ill-lit ugliness of this city, nor the deadening conviction that the little happiness you squeeze from it is provisional and frail, can take that away.
The new Adam & the Fish-Eyed Poets record talks itself into a corner. By definition, it couldn’t have sprung from anywhere but here – it is a concept album built around a ruinous “arranged” marriage, and is therefore, like the entrance exams, and lying to your wife about your cigarette habit, automatically very Indian – and yet, it will never meet this version of the country. The lads’ vocabulary consists of efficient two minute popcraft, reverb-heavy new-wave guitar, and drums and bass which crackle and snap all over the shop; this is an idiom that the people they paint wouldn’t know or care less about; thus, simply through choice of lexicon, the record and the world it describes will always be forced to stare at each other from a distance, in mutual incomprehension.
Gigs mean different things to different people. Ask the Shakey Rays how their Friday evening show in Bangalore went, and they’d probably tell you it was a bit of a nightmare. They blew an amp, broke strings on both their guitars at the same time, were losing their voices from excessive touring (this was their third gig in as many nights), and struggled throughout with the sound on their monitors. The crowd, on the other hand, saw it differently: for them, the Rays swung, and swung like hell. The on-stage mishaps weren’t anything more than convenient fag breaks; the guitars rang clear as bells outside, and no one could be bothered with a missed note here or there. The band were pushed into playing three encores, and the loonies dancing up at the front only got loonier as the show rolled on.
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.
‘Twas brillig in a slithy Bangalore Friday evening it was that Adam & his Fish-Eyed Didgeridoos played to
a warehouseful of skanks & punks shooting up in the toilets and swigging their glycerol blokes in shirts carefully folding their napkins in the gentle, subtle candlelight whilst their well-cleavaged (but very expensive) girlfriends caught up on local gossip. Christ, what are these lads going to do?
There’s a small homemade revolution brewing here right under everyone’s noses. In the past year, three improbable little records have come out of Chennai which knock a modest, but significant, hole in the otherwise very sensible view that nothing good is ever going to come out of this country the way it’s going. These albums – Tunes from the Big Belly by the Shakey Rays and Curious Toys by Harsha Iyer, both débuts, and Dead Loops from Adam & the Fish-Eyed Poets, a sophomore – make up an oddball trio: in an industry lorded over by over-privileged brats playing the superstar to crowds conditioned to not erupt in outrage when yet another too-well-known-for-their-own-good rock group shows up and condescends to them and insults their intelligence by hawking triteness and bloat, these three stand by the backdoor, looking smarter-than-thou and refusing to make friends.