Teddy Boy Kill: The Exit Plan
Within the fairly nascent independent music scene in India, we can safely say that it is rather rare to come across a duo which is so wholly bound to the sphere of electronica as the boys of Teddy Boy Kill. This pair of musicians from the heart of New Delhi comprises Toymob (Ashhar Farooqi) on vocals and guitar and AudioPervert (Samrat B) providing the computer generated beats which form the crux of the band’s sound.
Teddy Boy Kill exudes a distinct flavour of a precise design aesthetic, whether it is their music, their stylish and urbane posters, or anything else. ‘The Exit Plan’ is not an album that will blow you away on first listen; there is a complex network of layered subtleties which present themselves only to the already-initiated listener. The eight tracks on the album provide a sampling of what Toymob and AudioPervert are capable of; and we like what we hear. “Music> Response> Gratification”, they proclaim on their MySpace, and that statement finds its substantiation in the album: for it looks like they make electronic music, not because it is the favourite flavour of bands from India that do well outside the country, but because there is electronic music to be made.
The album kicks off with “Tonic”, which evolves Bat for Lashes-like ominous vocals, dreamy and ethereal, into restrainedly pumping beats. A minute-and-a-half into the song, and you’re already hooked to the band’s unique cacophony of electronic beeps and bloops. “Trash” introduces equally subdued yet tempered female vocals to complement the male vocals. The song also brings in an element of funk into the palette of electronica, as well as quirky vocal phrasings that sound slickly conversational. “Josefina” again revisits this style of lilted vocals on “Trash”, with sly party beats and cleverly interjected snippets of a female voice whom, I guess, we can assume to be Josefina. Besides, the montage of conversational sound bytes mixed into the bleeps and beeps in this song lends itself to the urban nature which tints Teddy Boy Kill’s sound. The gentle “Face the Future” swells with the laidback beauty of an electronica-tinged Explosions in the Sky song.
A lot of times on the album, the music sounds like a toned-down, remixed version of a Radiohead song. Teddy Boy Kill often manages to pay sonic homage to Thom Yorke’s fragile falsettos as well as, perhaps, Daft Punk’s rhythmic electronica sensibilities. In fact, they’ve tipped their hat to Radiohead with “Subterra”. The song borrows elements of the despondent detachedness, as well as its etymology, from Radiohead’s “Subterran Homesick Alien”, although admittedly it doesn’t quite manage to capture the essence of the eeriness which pervades a Radiohead song.
The best track on the album would have to be the dreamlike mashup of Junior Boys and a muted Hercules and Love Affair of “Traveling”. Pulsing beats echoing in the atmosphere of the song complement the aloof vocals. Diametrically opposite to “Traveling” in terms of finesse is the meandering “Immortal”, which significantly brings down the pace and also the impressiveness which the earlier tracks shine with. It is on this track that Teddy Boy Kill cross the line from experimental to, well, fairly boring.
It is refreshing to see an Indian electronic band actually utilising glitchy quirks and subtle intricacy in the same way that the greats of the genre do it. However, more than for the music itself, Teddy Boy Kill is important in the scene for what it represents: that the average audience has moved on towards the less-accessible aspects of alternative music such as the electronica which the duo offers. It plays a pivotal role in the evolution of a more mature appreciation of independent music among audiences all over India.
However, an underlying drawback in Teddy Boy Kill’s sound is that the songs seem a tad too long at points; also, the clicks and kicks in the background are not as pronounced, not as crisp, as they need to be. The beats, the vocals, the layers, it’s all there; however, there is not enough of it packed into each song. It often feels like the band is holding back on something crucial in their sound. If they can find that certain magnetism which is faintly lacking in their sound, then Teddy Boy Kill can promise us a truly great second album. For now, ‘The Exit Plan’ feels like an important and unique album, but the band’s sound is something that is conspicuously a work in progress. Expect bigger and better things from these guys in the future.