Bombay Showcase

Hoirong and the art of the first kiss

Image courtesy : Pranav Gohil.  

Hoirong’s third album arrives less than two years after their last and makes for quite possibly their most accessible yet. If most of you reading didn’t know, the band exists in the black hole that is India’s brand-rock pantheon of overzealously marketed swill.

Titled Mwah for possibly no good reason, Hoirong’s 2016 opus begins with ‘Pushup Bra’, a song that falls squarely in their comfort zone: disjointed garage-punk with a pop edge and seemingly indecipherable yet anthemic lyrics. It’s a fair start.

Moving on, ‘Peace’ accompanies ‘Grant Hill Drinks Sprite’ in a classic Hoirong yin-and-yang. The latter name-checks Lee Garfinkel’s series of irreverent Sprite advertisements featuring star basketball player Grant Hill of the Detroit Pistons that sort-of became a template for many “cheeky” ad campaigns. ‘Peace’ is truer to its title and just a wee bit balmier on the ear than its balls-to-the-wall partner. Both songs click together almost seamlessly in a love-filled marriage of distorted guitar, rattling drums and sharp, astute lyricism. Think critical darlings Weezer in their more abrasive days observing socio-political complexes meeting the progressive art-pop of Brian Wilson post-The Beach Boys, whipping up sarcasm and wit as deftly as anger and frustration. And from then on, Mwah simply sings.

‘47RR’ references both temples and forests and could well be a song about the group of masterless samurais known as the 47 Ronin, but that’s just a premature analysis of a song that will undeniably morph as time passes. It does, however, kickoff a gorgeous trio of tunes. ‘Dhakan’ flirts with Eddie Van Halen-style guitar work as much as it does with Korn’s ‘Freak On A Leash’ but stays an animal unto itself. ‘Two To Tango’ wastes little time calling out indifferent and subservient audiences along with their flavour-of-the-moment DJ idols with “Hey you f***king idiot, clap your hands… wave your hands in the air ‘cause we know that you don’t care,’” ending with the sad but true duality/reality of “you are more famous than we will ever be.”

Halfway through Mwah ’s 14 songs, ‘Saraswatika’ is noisy and feels almost atonal, but is the first solid sing-along with a massive chorus in tow, and is likely the brand of ear-booze Axl Rose and Slash tanked up on a few years before they decided to mix punk rock, glam metal and stadium pop song-writing with intravenous heroin to form the Guns ’N’ Roses.

‘Puke’ harkens back to the doom metal of glory-days Black Sabbath, but is sadly just a brief foray into what could be a ritualistic paean for a Parvati Valley witch hunt. ‘Precocial’ is another one to sing out, a potent love song for the jaded 20-somethings that will hopefully consume this album.

On to the skinny end of Mwah , ‘Please’ calls to mind the ‘wall of sound’ treatment employed by other left-of-rock bands like At The Drive In and the Smashing Pumpkins, creating a force field of amplification that even the most blithe lyrics would sound powerful over, and Kamal Singh’s disaffected drawl paints him a perfect dissident before giving way to the kind of electronic ditty you would hear on an airplane’s PA system in between pilot announcements. Right here is when the listener can finally catch a breath.

‘Pardon My French’ is exactly that, a love song laden with expletives, a load on the tongue best spat out without too much thought, but ends far too prematurely. And finally ‘Water Water Water’: a desert anthem for the summer just gone by. It’s a tribute to some of the best underground rock ’n’ roll of the last 20 years, and the curtain call on Hoirong’s latest contribution to world of music.

In the end, Mwah is an album whose inherent cheek, wit and self-awareness leave those of their contemporaries in the dust. A bone of contention might be how derivative it all sounds, all very much in the court of 90s and early noughties rock music, and obviously a patchwork of the many influences of Hoirong’s band-members. But while peddling pastiche normally leads nowhere fast, Hoirong have carved out an album of entirely relevant, feel-bloody-good music at a time when most of their peers are busy future-proofing their ideas by stealing from the West and refusing to tip their hats.

Mwah is just like every first kiss should be, both a reflection and a celebration of our feelings and emotions, and I’ll put it down to providence that we don’t have to look beyond our nation’s capital to relate. Bug your local promoter and bring these gents to a concert space near you. Now!

Mwah is available for a price of your choosing on Bandcamp.

The author is a freelance writer

Mwah is just like every first kiss should be, both a reflection and a celebration of our feelings and emotions

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 4:49:02 PM |

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