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Album Reviews

Thermal and a Quarter: Plan B

By Anand Varghese | January 22, 2006

Thermal and a Quarter

There’s always something edgy about Thermal And A Quarter. Something that doesn’t allow them to go with the flow, or let’s say ‘trickle’, of Indian rock. In many ways, they seem to be drawing right from the source of punk’s do-it-yourself pragmatism and combining it with their own deep musical refinement. Their list of achievements may be small in number, but big in significance.

Record three superb albums *: Check.
Distribute and promote them *: Been there.
Get airplay on America’s National Public Radio *: Done that.

(* without any help from a record label.)

It’s the little appendage next to the asterisk that adds real meat to the bare bones of this band’s nine-year career. And with ‘Plan B’, they have done it again*.

Thermal’s third offering was released solely on their Web site for free download, making them one of the first Indian rock bands to independently harness the power of the Web, offering fans and curious new listeners the chance to get their hands on ‘Plan B’ without the threat of Ulrichian retribution. But with all the tech savvy hype that could surround such a release, TAAQ still knows what it takes to make a pretty solid record.

From its locomotive groove and stellar guitar solo to the upended-Shakespeare-quote-posing-as-a-chorus, “Bend the World” is the album’s strongest track. If anything will gnaw through the sensibilities of an international audience, this song is it. Poor spelling and outrageous punning combined with doses of streetside charm make “Chainese Item” an amusing counter to Rajesh Mehar’s didactic rocker “Cynical World”. These three tracks, along with the live favourite “Paper Puli”, are the funk-rocking vanguard of Thermal’s sound. The rest of the album shows a more experimental TAAQ that varies in its success. “The Steal”, a brooding, politically-charged number, is TAAQ’s freshest composition on the album, featuring an extremely soulful, but now rare vocal performance from Rzhude. “Motorbyckle” takes us on a relentless ride through a dusty highway, driven by a contagious fleet-fingered riff. However, it is in its middle passage that ‘Plan B’ fails to really impress. “Galacktiqua” is far from their best song. Its time signature changes and melodies display more sophistry than sophistication. “I Live Here” and “Dead Inside” are mellower numbers that had me rather bored until things picked up for the vigorous home stretch. They just do not have the spark that lights up the rest of the album, despite its bright, polished sound.

Though the album lacks TAAQ’s usual dead-on consistency, its stronger tracks have an undeniable vitality that make it a compelling offering. There are rumours that Thermal’s studio session generated much more material than ‘Plan B’ reveals. If this album is a pointer to how those tracks sound, we’ll hopefully have a bigger bang of a Thermal album sometime in the new future. And for the sake of quasi-geezers like myself, hopefully it’ll be on a disk I can hold with 12 pages of liner notes to pore over while it plays in the background. [Independent; 2005]

Comments

3 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. November 14, 2006, 10:50 am Arjun

    Yours was a nice review, but I do not agree with your assessment of Plan B’s songs. I like the songs almost exactly opposite of what you’ve mentioned. Motorbyckle, Dead Inside and I Live Here are my favourite songs from the album, and I haven’t heard any other Indian band that pays so much attention to the harmony part of the music, while sacrificing on the technical aspects. I agree that Galacktiqua sounds a wee bit pretentious, but the first time I heard it, I was blown away, and it was this song (rather, the video on youtube.com) that drew me to the band..So to repeat myself, nice review, but I necessarily endorse the same views. Maybe this shows the appeal TAAQ has, with both, their mellow as well as faster songs..

  2. December 11, 2008, 1:01 pm Praveen

    I agree with Arjun. Songs like Dead Inside and I live here are simple and don’t perhaps exhibit the technical exuberance that’s seen in other songs. However, the vocal melodies in these songs are among the best I’ve heard from TAAQ.

  3. September 14, 2009, 7:13 pm mayank

    loved the song

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