The Weird and Wondrous World of Sridhar/Thayil
We’re not certain that there will be a full house at Blue Frog this Thursday, April 26, when Sridhar/Thayil play the last date of their ongoing tour of the country to promote their debut album STD. Their gigs draw a loyal set of fans, us included, but one always gets the feeling that the act deserves a larger audience. The reason that Sridhar/Thayil don’t pack in venues, like say their electro-pop counterparts Shaa’ir + Func, is that while their music is always interesting, it’s frequently unconventional and intermittently provocative (which other Indian band would name their album after the acronym for sexually transmitted disease?).
Fans who have already downloaded STD for free via the Sridhar/Thayil’s Bandcamp microsite are likely to still buy the CD, which will be available at the Blue Frog concert. The CD features plenty of artwork that makes it a keepsake, particularly for followers who consider Sridhar/Thayil one of Indian indie’s most visually arresting acts. At their gigs, every song is a story that’s played out on stage by guitarist Jeet Thayil, who is also a well-known novelist and poet, and vocalist-actress Suman Sridhar. Fortunately, their characters are compelling, thanks to the pair’s combined songwriting and compositional prowess. Part of the fun, of course, is to make of these characters what you wish.
Album opener “Here In The Morning” could be a suffocated spouse’s classy kiss-off, delivered over rumbling bass and growl-y guitar. “Bring Me Rain”, in contrast, could be the Indian indie electro-pop version of a kajri, the North Indian semi-classical song form where the lyrics describe a woman’s longing for her lover during the monsoon. “Minutes stretch to hours, hours stretch to days,” sings Sridhar on the mellow, melancholic tune. “The Drowning Song”, on the other hand, is an eerie tale of a boat, manned by Thayil’s crazed pirate, destined for an undefined abyss.
The most significant part of Sridhar/Thayil’s appeal, however, comes from their proclivity to pull together disparate ideas into an occasionally awkward but ultimately workable hybrid. “Punk Bhajan” is neither punk nor a bhajan, yet its stringing of sargams and harmonium with funky guitar, cool trumpet playing and melodramatic strings is ingenious. “I’m The One” is 1960s rock n’ roll tinged with jazz and flecked with blues guitar; while “This Be The Beat” recalls Digable Planets’ 1990s alternative rap-pop classic “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” with a rhyme scheme featuring such turns of phrase as “Thelonious like Monk”.
Our articulate pair is then not averse to a bad pun or three, going so far as to bring the point home on “Single and Preying” by layering Sridhar’s vocals to sound like a gospel choir. “City of Sisters”, meanwhile, contains the spoken word portion of “One Damn Nation” (the duo’s track with Emperor Minge that appeared on the Stupid Ditties 4 compilation), the infamous opening line of which goes: “Your cunt, my country”. This we suppose is a ballsy thing for Thayil to say on stage in this day and age but perhaps the words would make a sharper impact if Sridhar were singing them in first person instead. There are also moments that don’t quite work on STD—like the meandering “Her Hymn” which sacrifices tunefulness for the sake of experimentation—but they’re few and far between enough to stop the album from venturing into self-indulgence. More often than not, the weirdness is wondrous. Which is why we’re hoping for that full house at Blue Frog.
STD by Sridhar/Thayil will be available for sale at Blue Frog for Rs200.Tags: Album review, album reviews, Blue Frog, Jeet Thayil, Music, Sridhar/Thayil, STD, Suman Sridhar
LocationMathuradas Mills Compound
Opposite Kamala Mills
Tulsi Pipe Road
Relevant DatesThursday, April 26
Ticketing & Price InfoRs300