Original Indian rock has had quite a chequered history. Several acts have made bright starts only to sputter out into oblivion a few years later. Several acts have appeared promising but have faded away before anything substantial materialized. But then there are some other acts that have persevered through a fair share of ups and downs, and found their niche in terms of their sound, presence and appeal.
And then theres Indus Creed.
Quite easily the big daddy of the rock music scene in India, the band that released Rock n Roll Renegade (As Rock Machine, in 1989), when this writer was barely out of the diaper stage, hit big time with its appearances on big music channels, an acclaimed video for Pretty Child and a rather kitschy one for Top of the Rock. A couple of albums and some collectors edition tapes later, the band decided to call it quits with its members going their own way. Along the way, partial avatars of the band sprung up here and there, with Alms for Shanti (check out ‘Kashmakash’) being the most notable.
And thus, it was with much glee that the news of Indus Creeds revival after a decade and a half of exile was welcomed whole-heartedly. A year and something of playing at venues around the country, the band announced the release of their comeback album Evolve. And it does not disappoint. Well, not entirely. Straight out of the CD cover (with excellent artwork, although some sleeve-work would have been nice), one gets the feeling that this is not the Indus Creed of yore.
Fireflies starts things off in style. Layered with tones that wouldnt be entirely out of place in the 80s and 90s, the song has an evocative feel around it. The song really kicks in on the chorus along with the bass and some nice harmonies on the vocals. With a couple of teaser solos on the keyboard and guitar, the song definitely sets the mood for the album to follow. Uday Benegals voice sounds fuller than its 90s avatar. Another thing that is immediately apparent is the quality of production the mixing and mastering is terrific.
The album then moves to its second track, Dissolve. The distorted guitar kicking in after arpeggiated intro, sits in the mix very comfortably, yet adds a significant power to the song. The odd rhythm (10-beat cycle?), is very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, almost Sound of Muzak like. Lyrically, this song is the strongest in the entire album. The chorus kicks in with a bang, and is easily my favourite section of the album. It also fits in very nicely with the album cover.
Mahesh Tinaikars guitar solo rises nicely above the rest of the instruments after the second chorus. The spoken-word section doesn’t really stick it for me, although the evolving soundscapes are nice. The almost vocal only third chorus and the throwback to the intro are nicely pulled off. The longest song at 7:38, it is great to see a somewhat different, slightly heavier side to Indus Creeds music. A definite evolution from the Rock Machine sound! A big thumbs up to Rushad Mistrys basswork and Jai Row Kavi on the drums as well.
The Money follows next, and its a bit of a letdown. With its marching beat style intro, electronic influences et al, the song does not quite stick it. After the strong opening in a couple of songs, the song doesn’t quite keep the mood. The excellent guitar solo towards the end does nothing to change that sentiment. The theme of the song lyrically also does not seem as strong as some of the other tracks on the album.
Take it Harder follows and normal service is resumed with a hard hitting song, with excellent soundscape building on the intro courtesy Zubin Balaporia. The song is excellently written, and Uday Benegals vocals really shine through on this one. Well structured, with stellar guitar work, the solo oozes feel and the soundscapes added towards the end of the solo only add to the charm. Jay Row Kavis drumming is almost meditative in places. This song is a close second behind ‘Dissolve’ in terms of favourites from the album for me.
Another longish song follows in No Disgrace. Theres a bit of a throwback to the likes of Extreme and Mr. Big, the song has its own highs and lows. The band, as a whole, shines through nicely as a unit, but the song isnt as memorable as some of the other tracks. The progressive bent of mind is again very apparent, with some Rush-like keyboard tones, one can almost imagine Geddy Lee coming in with a couple of lines just before the guitar solo. The song highlights the individual skills of the band quite nicely though.
Come Around kicks off with a nice acoustic guitar intro. Dripping with nostalgia, the song is lyrically a throwback to a time gone by. The song is balladish at times, and is the mellowest of the album in terms of its structure as well as tone and it definitely keeps the mood nostalgic. The production value shines through brilliantly on this track. Uday Benegals vocals drive the song and are almost reminiscent of the Pretty Child days.
Bulletproof is a hard hitting out-and-out rocker. The song is of a different vintage from the rest of the album, and is, most definitely, one for the stage. This one would, no doubt, be something to get a crowd going at a nice venue blaring out from the PA. The band sounds nice and tight, with the bass and drum section really coming across in a great fashion.
Goodbye winds things down for Evolve. The song has a happy nostalgic air about it. While Indus Creed would have us believe that the dream was struck by reality and that the bigger dream would have a bigger fall, a resurrection of sorts could be just as big if not bigger. In some ways, it is an appropriate track to close out the album, shutting the door on one chapter while opening another to a possibly more exciting one.
In conclusion, the album does feel a little short and leaves me wanting for more. There are several moments on the album where Indus Creed shows us just why they were so revered back in the day, while at the same time, there are frustratingly ordinary moments as well.
All said and done, Uday Benegal, Mahesh Tinaikar, Zubin Balaporia, Rushad Mistry and Jai Row Kavi have put together an eminently enjoyable album. A special mention to Tim Palmer and company for the mixing and the production. Evolve sounds just as good on hi-fi speakers, headphones and on the car stereo. Another special mention to Zorran Mendonsa for shaping Evolves guitar sound, which is phenomenal!
Heres hoping that this is just the beginning of a new chapter for Indus Creed. Audiences in India are more mature, appreciative and informed these days and exciting times surely lie ahead.