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Album Reviews

Shaa’ir and Func: New Day (The Love Album)

By Anand Varghese | May 20, 2007

Split Magazine Shaa'ir and FuncWhen I first heard of ‘Are You Experienced’ by Jimi and the gang, something nagged at my English-medium educated, grammatically pompous bourgeoisie mind. Shouldn’t the title be ‘Have You Experienced’, I wondered. But then you’d need an object at the end of the clause, and then, well … let’s just drop that train of thought. But when I listened to the album, it became apparent rather quickly that only a verb of being could begin to describe the album. It wasn’t just something aural, but a visceral, cerebral and sensuous experience. I heard that album close to ten years ago, and very few albums since have given me that impression. Enter ‘The Love Album’.

Before the rabid Jimi purists begin to froth, let me point out that all comparisons end there. Stylistically, Shaa’ir and Func are worlds away from anything that The Experience did, though they do it with a similar air of dismissive self-indulgence that only a truly original act can muster. Of course, there are hints of so many genres and influences in Shaa’ir and Func’s sound, but they are mashed up into a nice organic blend all their own. The overall tone of the album is basically electronic, but the musical ground covered is considerable. There are suggestions of laidback reggae in “Juxtapose”, while “Secret” has satisfying pop and R’n'B doses in ample measure. The album meanders past heavy dance-floor workouts like “It’s Probably This”, and shifts into the brooding jazz of “Moonlight” with a fluid ease.

Randolph Correia’s guitar playing has shades of the best work of The Edge and Jeff Beck: with the good stuff, you can hardly tell that there’s a guitar at all. The appropriately titled “Hit” has some serious funk pushed far back into the mix, slipped masterfully between so many sonic strata. And it’s those layers of beats and synth swirls that anchor the album firmly in the electronic idiom, but they never cage the sound in any constrictive format.

Singer Monica Dogra reminds me of Alanis Morisette and Ani DiFranco with a Madonna-esque edge to her vocals. She has a breathy mid-range that makes the vocal lines passionate, with a refreshingly open sexuality that’s more passionate than pornographic. Songs like “It’s Probably That” tread that line well. Her voice has been shoved through a filter or two that give them a certain relentless ring. Sometimes too relentless. There’s great melody here, but I began to tire of the dynamics after a while. But such fatigue is of minor consequence.

If you buy ‘The Love Album’ expecting to hear some neo-Hippie rants about love and the mystic nature of human existence, you may get more than you bargained for. The album’s idealism, if any, is blended with healthy doses of postmodern skepticism as in the case of “Government”, a nice angsty rant about the government (duh!) and the immigrant experience.

Overall, in many ways, Shaa’ir and Func are the best thing to happen to Indian rock music in a while. And that’s because they aren’t Indian, nor are they rock. Their vibe is cosmopolitan and truly ‘world’ without the limitations of generic considerations cramping their style. They seem to be willing to escort the scene beyond the local to places it hasn’t seen yet. So perhaps the allusions to Jimi aren’t that misplaced after all.

Comments

5 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. May 20, 2007, 7:45 pm Dhrumil

    Monica’s voice has an amazing maturity to it. Not sure if that makes sense, but ya, hah… I like it.

  2. May 24, 2007, 11:17 am Vishal

    Very good review…makes me want to go out and get the album after reading this. You sir, are the best writer on Split Magazine.

  3. June 9, 2007, 7:38 pm tixar

    nice review anand.

  4. July 4, 2007, 9:02 pm Raj

    brilliant review…after reading it(and witnessing one live performance) i went and picked up the album. BUT…
    I have to say that im quite disappointed…besides songs like “Government” and “Hit” and that too in the second half version, there are hardly any songs which are even close to being memorable. Besides “Hit” there’s hardly any song which id go back and listen to once again. Hence, Mr. Varghese, i strongly contest your allusion to Hendrix because all that is different is not necessarily good :P

  5. August 21, 2008, 11:35 pm Vineet

    All hail Anand Varghese.

    Yeah, S+F are good too. :)

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