Archive for the ‘Post Rock’ Category

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Lounge Piranha – Going Nowhere

January 28, 2009
Lounge Piranha - Going Nowhere

Lounge Piranha - Going Nowhere

To me, there have always been two kinds of live acts. The first is the big name headliner, the act that you would travel miles and pay a substantial amount of money to see. This is the type of show most people, including me, pay to see on a regular basis. One very memorable show of this type I have seen at least somewhat recently (within six months, anyway) was the Black Lips, who played Lollapalooza in August. These are the guys that get themselves banned from clubs all over the USA for their antics, some of which their Wikipedia page eloquently lists as “vomiting, urinating, nudity, band members kissing, Power Wheel races, fireworks, a chicken, and flaming guitars.” While these guys do rock hard, it is no surprise they had a bit of internal trouble on their tour of India recently in Chennai, and ended up skipping the entire rest of the tour. (Compare the Pitchfork article here and Lips drummer Joe Bradley’s a-bit-too-close-to-racist-for-comfort interview with Vice Magazine here.)

The second type of live act is the act you probably haven’t heard of, and if you have, you probably didn’t buy the ticket just for them, because they are opening acts most of the time. When they aren’t, they more than likely play joint shows. And on the rare occasion they headline, they won’t draw a crowd of hundreds because they haven’t hit it big yet. They are the kind that you pay a couple dollars to see and take a chance on.

There is obviously a big advantage to being of the first type of live act I described, because by definition it means you have widespread success, and probably money or groupies, or can afford to make out with your same sex bandmate and still sell out shows. But being of the second type is different. Most of the time, these types of bands play music because it is their job. They do it because if they didn’t do it, they probably wouldn’t be able to put bread on the table. However, most bands of this first type started out as the second type at some point. Although we are talking about generalizing all live acts down to two groups, and the line is surely blurred, I’m pretty sure the distinction is obvious. Sometimes you hear a band of the second type that just sucks hard, and you throw them over your shoulder. But sometimes, you hear that small name band and it turns out they are really, really good, and you won’t just forget them after you see the show or listen to the album.

Although it would be wrong of me to make all of the prior assumptions about a band before I have gotten to see them live personally, after having listened to their debut release, I can make a pretty confident conclusion that rock band Lounge Piranha from Bangalore, the Garden City of India and one of the country’s fastest developing metropolitan cities, is one of these bands. These are the guys you would kill to stumble upon, to discover without any prior knowledge of their music. Hell, you probably wanted desperately to be in a band like this in college. You might have even dreamed these songs and wished you could have committed them to paper or recording, but you never did. But these guys did. And their debut release, Going Nowhere, rocks hard.

Although they label themselves as post rock, it might be a bit of a misleading label. I feel like post rock by definition connotes something difficult, shocking, or unconventional. Lounge Piranha are really none of these things, or really that cutting edge either.  They are willing to make simple, easy to follow music with a great sense of control and restraint. They aren’t trying to be hardcore and they aren’t using shock tactics, but are instead making music to please, which is appreciable.

This seven song album, or possibly EP, is actually somewhat of an in the park home run. It isn’t a knockout, and it isn’t without it’s flaws, but it is an eclectic debut that manages to not sound messy or contrived. The first song, Going Nowhere, is actually the most post-rock sounding song on the album, with soaring guitar solos juxtaposed with a funky bassline and singer Kamal Singh’s vocals. He has a nice tone and a voice that is quite similar to that of one of my favorite vocalists Jerry Cantrell, but his lyrics are rather streamlined. In spite of this, it would be difficult to deny that this song is  fun and sonically expansive.

But things really start to heat up by the second song, Gun Song. It is at this point that we really start to get the feeling that Lounge Piranha have a keen awareness of exactly what they are doing, and not just capitalizing on good hooks, which in fact are good enough to justify this release in the first place. However, by the time we start to wonder why the narrator wishes he had a gun, he’s already answered the question, and everyone sounds like they are ready to fire it off. But remember, they don’t actually have the gun, and the song ends abruptly. It seems almost painfully simple but also quite heady and clever, without all the drama. They could have easily pulled some shock tactics in the end, but they keep it real and stick to their guns (pun recognized but not intended).

The rest of the EP wastes little time and shows a great departure from the first two songs. Snakes & Lotuses is the album’s most immediately memorable tune, and less post rock than alternative rock, although I don’t particularly like using either term. In any case, it’s really fun rock and roll. The next two songs rock equally hard, Ebb being a fun, bouncy ska tune, and Eclat a more Explosions-In-The-Sky-esque  piece, except with more backbone and less samesy dynamics (incidentally, for that reason, Explosions In The Sky was one of the worst shows I saw at Lollapalooza). Then comes Teenage Curse, where the band turn their tone down and get a little grungy. It’s not bad, but probably the least entertaining song on the album. It is vastly overshadowed by that which proceeds it, probably the best song on the album, Hand Hole. Think Explosions in the Sky mixed with Jar of Flies era Alice in Chains, and you might have something comparable.

After a considerable debut like this, a rising band could go in numerous directions. All too often, bands like this fall through the cracks. Sometimes this happens in a good way despite of this, and a band lives on and does their thing for years. Or sometimes they turn into crack fiends  and go to jail for aggravated assault. Not likely, in this case. They could feasibly hit it big, and either play themselves up big and get big heads about their talent like, say, the Black Lips. Or more likely, judging by the form of this album, they could gain popularity while holding their modesty.

I compare the Black Lips and Lounge Piranha not because they have anything in common stylistically. They really couldn’t be any more different in that sense. Their biggest similarity, beyond the fact that both of them make great music, is that neither of them are anything radically innovative or pretending to come up with a new style (yet). Yeah, the Black Lips are going to sell out their shows whether or not they actually are drunken troublemakers. And really, it would be unfair of us to argue that they aren’t really who they say they are at this point. But because they can’t contain themselves from getting wasted, mooning their audience or trying to do things that make them seem punk rock, they will probably never play to most of India and knowingly sacrificed a lot of shows and publicity.

Lounge Piranha, on the other hand, have already rocked a good portion of India, and I would not be surprised if they ended up traveling elsewhere, to Europe or even the US, eventually. And I’d be the first guy to buy their tickets, even if I had to travel a long way to see them, because they are an intelligent, fun, no gimmicks band. They are the kind of band that we want to hold as ours, while the Black Lips are instead decidedly their own. While neither band is potentially essential, the very concept of Lounge Piranha is. We need those bands whose album we buy or whose show we attend and end up loving, even if they are not headlining yet. And we need those bands that don’t care about fitting an image and just want to make some music. It’s completely possible that Lounge Piranha will be exactly that band that some crazy old man in a bar somewhere talks about  fifty years from now, regardless of where the band is going. “Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of great shows. I remember Lounge Piranha in 2011. Those guys rocked hard.” And they didn’t even have to urinate on anybody.

Lounge Piranha

Lounge Piranha