Something Relevant: Feels Good 2 B Live!
The web site of Bombay’s Something Relevant features creative, graphic novel-esque art, teeming with often-overlooked details of urban life. A dog eating out of a discarded drum. Autos swerving left and cars skidding right. A man, arrow through the heart, wondering who shot him. A giant, black, and slightly goofy monster towering over a charming rendition of Bombay’s skyline. (Okay, so it’s not exactly true to life.) But in many ways, Something Relevant’s music is exactly like this: carefree, detailed, a little larger than life, and full of the vibe of an imaginative, pulsing Bombay.
Self-described as a group of “typical Bombay boys” with a penchant for food, basketball, Rang Bhavan, and performing in Bombay’s dwindling number of gazebos in outdoor parks, the band consists of seven members, all alumni of St. Xavier’s College. Something Relevant, in their highly anticipated debut album ‘Feels Good 2 B Live!’, have created an album buzzing with the energy and feel of both a live show and a live city, encapsulating their natural flair for live performances into about 35 minutes of optimistic goodness.
The album is full of easy solos (guitar, saxophone), clean and crisp production, and a traditional set-up, which the band manages to turn around into a sound of their own. The band doesn’t try to impress the listener with flashy tricks or practised speed. Instead, it banks on pleasant, laid-back buoyancy, easy on the ears and fun to listen to. The concept of a good jam band, not to mention the mentality and personality required for the creation of one, is somewhat rare in the Indian scene, and Something Relevant, in this regard, is in a league of its own. Simply put, Something Relevant’s album sounds like India’s answer to Dave Matthews Band.
The album kicks off the with “Mr Invisible”, a great song with an outrageously catchy chorus (“Now tell me / Who you think you are”). Talented drumming and keyboards sync perfectly with the bass, before a winding solo meanders into the music. “Horn OK Please”, a humorous take on Indian traffic, and the eponymous phrase seen on the back of many trucks, is a fun track; a crescendo of the plethora of noises found on the road segues into their trademark slick confidence.
It is an album that should serve to make you reminisce about the times that you’ve seen the band live, because that’s how Something Relevant should be experienced.
The best track on the album, however, is the poppy “Aaha”. Within the first 30 seconds, the laid-back guitars, the addictive chorus, and the clever lyrics get you hooked. This is Something Relevant’s crossover hit, the one that can propel them from a live act (albeit a hugely successful one) into a band of household-name status. Lyrically, it’s a break-up song, but given the non-stop fun of the song, you forget that lyrics even exist. Maracas and saxophones make perfect interludes into this upbeat song, making it sound like a jazzier Vampire Weekend.
“Eddy on a Roll” takes things down a notch; the mellow saxophone and Aazin’s smooth vocals make it easy to visualise this song being performed in, say, a lounge, more than at a manic rock concert or a breezy park. What could be a nondescript song is transformed into something better by the frequent interludes of staccato beats, throwing the vocals into sharper relief. “The Comfort Song” starts slowly but breaks down into an almost Jamaican concoction of sunny pop and sunnier optimism.
“Harry Mole”, a behemoth track (the original is nine minutes long, and the radio edit is over seven), begins as the sonic equivalent of a film noir movie, or perhaps a murder mystery. The story of a lovesick character called Harry Mole unfolds over the duration of the song, peppered with details that make you smile (“Met him on a train last time / Said he had someplace to go / St. Mary’s Church, I guess”). It is this knack for storytelling, coupled with the dizzying jazz solos and the zest of a Mexican party, which makes Something Relevant so good.
From the scatting on “Tomorrow” to the funk on “City in a Situation”, Something Relevant’s debut album captures the essence of a live band. This is not an album that’s supposed to introduce you to the band. It is an album that should serve to make you reminisce about the times that you’ve seen this band live, because that’s how Something Relevant should be experienced.
Every track on the album can probably do well on the radio; such is Something Relevant’s wide appeal and accessibility. The album itself is more like a collection of singles rather than a cohesive series of songs. However, this proves to be their biggest undoing: while all the tracks are individually good, they sound somewhat similar while listening to the album at a stretch.
Overall, “Feels Good 2 B Live!” proves to be a unique record from a popular and talented band. A listen through the entire album is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. If Something Relevant can take the energy they’ve exhibited on this, and add just a tad more innovation, then we can really expect great things from them in the future.