Very few young bands from Kolkata make the effort to stand out amongst the plethora of the tried and tested formula that are so prevalent in the city. The ones that do make an effort eventually get shot down before they manage to establish themselves. Indeed it is not just about having talent, or about adopting the right approach or about having the right connections you also require a thick skin and the mentality to walk barefoot through the fire that surrounds you. If you as a musician are able to do THAT, then maybe, just maybe you will have people appreciating your efforts and eager to listen to your music as well. Reaching a level where music lovers are actually dying to listen to you is a long, long journey. Some musicians struggle for years to reach anywhere close to this grade. Most musicians give up after a few years of trying. Its a hard climb, and there is really no guarantee you will see a light at the end of the tunnel. One thing is certain though there is no short-cut up this ladder. You start from the bottom rung. And you climb.
Gingerfeets rise up this virtual ladder has been startling to say the least. Almost like a violation of the laws of physics. Less than a year back this band from Kolkata did not even exist. A few jams, and before you know it they were short-listed to compete at Nagalands prestigious Hornbill National Rock Festival. And despite the fact that they were up against some of Indias finest young bands, Gingerfeet managed to beat the odds and turn out the eventual winners for 2012. Being crowned winners of a prestigious competition is a great springboard for any young band. However, Gingerfeet has ever since done precious little to keep themselves in the eyes of the music loving public, even in their home base at Kolkata. Being selected as one of the Indian finalists of the Hard Rock Rising competition in and playing the odd gig in and around the city is all that they have done in the past few months. Ask the average live gig goer in Kolkata and chances are they know nothing about the band much less attended any of their gigs. Its a cruel world, show business, and unfortunately if you dont make efforts to remain in the eyes of the public you soon become yesterdays news.
Releasing a debut album in such circumstances seems a bit of a risk for Gingerfeet, especially with very little having being done in terms of promotion. It almost feels like sitting for an exam after just a single midnight cramming session. However a lot of good effort has been put into High And Above: The First Wave as a whole the Rs. 5 lakh prize money attained from the Hornbill win has indeed been put into good use here, because what you get as an end-product is an album where the band confidently delivers a mesh of funk and hard rock ditties, and although none of the 9 originals really blow your mind away, yet the quality of the compositions and the ability of the musicians do shine through. For a debut album most bands couldnt really ask for more.
The 9-track album starts off with the bouncy, happy-go-lucky ‘Am I Dreaming Or What?’ and Vedant Razz impresses with the guitar parts. The next track ‘Fake You’ successfully changes the mood and tempo however and there is a more hard rock/glam feel to this composition. Drummer Abhindandan Mukherjee lends a steady hand on this track, commendably controlling the rhythm section and he is ably assisted by Lokes Mangar on bass and Dibya Raj Mukhia on the rhythm guitar. Vocalist Abhishek Gurung has fun showing off his vocal range throughout the track. Very much the same is on offer for track #3 ‘Game On‘ and here too the grooves hit you thick and fast. ‘God Forbid’ is up next and bassist Lokesh and guitarist Vedanta get into a battle of the axes here, each egging on the other to slap and tap faster than the other. It does make for interesting listening.The tempo slightly changes with the title-track ‘High And Above’ but the element of funk doesnt let up. Abhisheks vocals sound a whole lot dreamy here and his voice transports the listener high above the ground, almost giving you the impression that you are floating in the air. The backing vocals sound a bit clichéd, but then again their absence would have somehow left the song incomplete.
Five tracks and we are mid-way through the album if you, the listener, are an ardent fan of funk then Gingerfeet certainly has a lot more to offer and that is enough to take you through this journey. However if funk isnt really your thing then chances are you may have already been bitten by the deja-vu bug. And unfortunately the deeper you dive into Gingerfeets effort the chance of you succumbing to the effects of mental fatigue are huge. Track #6 ‘Mr. Bombastic’ while starting off promisingly with some more of Lokeshs intricate bass work somehow fails to hold your attention which is a pity because this isnt a bad composition. But despite the loud driving chorus and Vedantas interesting solo in between, its almost like all of this has already been covered by the band in their previous tracks.
The same can be said of track #7 ‘No Division‘ although what does make this composition a wee bit more interesting is the Rage Against The Machine feel to the song in the chorus section, thus providing a lot more punch to certain sections of the song. But it is only when you get to hear track #8 ‘Stars‘ do you feel that maybe, just maybe,Gingerfeet has a few more tricks up their sleeves. Amidst a flurry of infectious grooves Abhishek unleashes the monster within him and lets his voice take you through a crazy bumpy funk infested ride. Luckily the fever doesnt subside and in the final track ‘The Vibe,’ Gingerfeet gives you another composition that stands out from the rest due to the edgy progressive rock influences that are wedged in between the otherwise hard-hitting funky grooves on offer. It is a good way to end this debut effort, because at the end of it all, what it does go to prove is that Gingerfeet are thankfully not a one-trick pony. And this is more than a relief because, as mentioned previously, in terms of musicality the biggest drawback to the bands entrée into the Indian rock music world is the lack of surprises on the album which is a big surprise since the musical competence of this quintet has never been in doubt. However as debut albums go High And Above: The First Wave is seriously not a bad effort. In fact its production values far outshine most debut albums that are available in the market. And once again, although musically it is not the most brilliant of funk/hard rock albums on offer, yet whatever the band does dish out is pretty commendable. And you do get the feeling that their sophomore effort (whenever it is conceived) will contain a lot more zingy zesty surprises and will also tone down a whole lot on the monotony bit.
Gingerfeet as a live act are indeed a captivating lot and it is on stage where they rule the roost. And this is why the band should probably have laid a lot more emphasis in promoting their music through live channels. Unfortunately, performing just two gigs in Kolkata does not in any way constitute a pre-album tour. And though pre-album gigs may have been performed in other parts of the country, in all honesty enough has NOT been done to promote this album to the music lovers of the country. Which is a shame, because High And Above does deserve a proper listen. It is times like these where the band may feel the top of the ladder is so near and yet so far perhaps a proper introduction to the bands music on the live circuit followed by the albums release would have been the proper sequence to follow. Anyway, what is done cannot be undone and one can only hope that Gingerfeet will not rush their way to the top and will take the next couple of months to establish themselves and their music. And although this may slow down their climb up the proverbial ladder, being slow and steady will actually hold them good in the years to come. They definitely need to get their music heard across the land, and though this fine debut album will no doubt assist them in achieving that, it is eventually on the strength of their live performances where Gingerfeet will benefit the most.