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Three Wheels Nine Lives by Thermal And A Quarter


If the city of Bangalore ever masqueraded in the sonic dimension, it would probably be heard in a TAAQ album. Three Wheels Nine Lives (3W9L) is a guaranteed bumpy ride through the city on that black-and-yellow mean machine.

3W9L impresses right from the album art, the inner sleeves, and the humungous poster with caricatures of the trio.

‘Surrender’ opens up a funky first disc with a lot of hooks and sing-alongs. The wah-wah croaks and sniggers around Bruce’s Hendrix-y casual vocals. The title track ‘Meter Mele One and a Half’ is in 11/8 time or 5.5/8, which comes from the title (meter -4, mele– plus 1 ½ =5 ½). Despite the complex time, the song’s still got addictive chorus lines.

The auto takes a break as Bruce and friends relax with mellower tones that seem to paint sonic pictures of Lalbagh. ‘In the Middle’, ‘Birthday’ and ‘Bangalore Flowers’ have the best lyrics on the album. While ‘In the Middle’ has a reference to John Coltrane, ‘Birthday’ outrageously imagines the possibilities of time being space. ‘Bangalore Flowers’ is the pick of disc one, which lyrics that Bangalore-lovers(lovers of Bangalore and lovers in Bangalore) can relate to and a brilliant much-awaited-on-disc-1 Bruce Lee Mani guitar solo.

‘If Them Blues’ fuses Chennai’s local dabbankuthu genre (the beat, the whistle) with Hendrix’s ‘Jam back at the house’ (Woodstock ’69). The jazzy guitar-vocals duet in ‘Sad Moon’ featuring Priya Mendens on haunting vocals closes disc one.

‘For the Cat’ retains some of disc-one’s Saturday-afternoon-in-your-armchair-sipping-coffee feel of tracks like ‘Bangalore Flowers’ and ‘Billboard Bride’ but slowly moves into a tighter blues groove before returning back to the armchair. ‘Ho-hum (instrumental)’ is a brisk walk between auto-stands, while ‘Chameleon’ and ‘Dangerous Mind’ are the two dark-hard tracks of the album.

Saturday afternoon moves into night with the ponderous ‘Who Do We Have Sex With?’ and the fizzy ‘Won’t Stop’. The bluegrass-y bonus track ‘Something You Said’ closes out disc two in a fashion similar to disc one – mellow and haunting.

The singles and live disc has its own gems –‘Simply Be’ a quirky eccentric track with a cracking bass solo, ‘Mighty Strange’ and ‘One Small Love’ have fluttery sax and a husky flute with the latter being in 10/8 time embroidered with a very Dire Strait-ish guitar work. ‘Grab Me’ is the best song on the disc, a 12/8 slow burning blues with lovely solos and the anti-corruption anthem ‘Kickbackistan’ completes the auto journey.

In 3W9L, TAAQ have brewed a perfect concoction of laid-back bluesy tracks and brisk rock n’ roll. The environs are unmistakable – Bangalore with its street-side chat shops and the large malls, the IT folk and the parks and yet it never gets up-market at any point in the album.

If you’re a guitarist you want Bruce’s amp and if you’re a vocalist you want his everyman Bangalorean casual approach to singing parts in complex time. His solos are sophisticated yet expressive. The rhythms section of TAAQ (Prakash KN on bass, Rajeev Rajagopal on drums) keeps the grooves tight and interesting through the winding time signatures.

While many bands in the country are opting for a native and desi feel with Carnatic, Hindustani or folk-ish sounds to spice things up and express themselves succinctly, TAAQ use the time-tested palette of jazz-infused blues, and aptly so, for the urban Bangalore vibe is precisely what they want to conjure.

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Purushotham Kaushik

Purushotham Kaushik is a freakish-blues guy with a Carnatic frame of mind and surreal poetic sensibilities.


Thermal and a Quarter talks about ‘Three Wheels Nine Lives’


WTS interviews Bruce Lee Mani and Rajeev Rajagopal from Bangalore band Thermal and a Quarter, TAAQ for the impatient. They talk about ‘Three Wheels Nine Lives’, dealing with the blessedly unique problem of having “too much material” to put in one album, their first ever PG-rated song and more!

Videography: Munz TDT
Interviewed by: Priyanka Shetty


Guns ‘N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore


Let me preface this review by saying that I have been a GNR fan for the longest time. I was lucky to get a copy of ‘Appetite for Destruction’ at the age of 9 and there was no looking back. Though my musical tastes have become wide and varied over the years, I still consider Appetite to be one of the best rock albums ever produced. It has inspired several generations of musicians and has stood the test of time. Let me also preface this by saying that I am fully aware that the current lineup of GNR does not include Slash, Duff, Izzy or Steven. I had mentally prepared myself for the same, dropping all expectations. Yes, GNR is not GNR without Slash and he is the reason why many (including me) started playing the guitar. However, that should never come in the way of enjoying good live music.

Guns 'N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore

A few years back, I would have never in my wildest dreams thought of watching GNR live in India (with whatever lineup) from the front row and I thank the band for coming out here. I advise everyone reading this review, and retrospectively all those who attended the concert, to keep this in mind. There is nothing more annoying than somebody in the audience shouting, “Bring out Slash!” after every song. There is nothing to be gained by comparing the present lineup to what GNR was at its prime in the 80’s. To state the obvious, the only remaining members of the original lineup is Axl Rose. DJ Ashba, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and Richard Fortus have taken over guitar duties.  Use Your Illusion era keyboardist Dizzy Reed, Bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist Chris Pitman complete the lineup. The concert took place at Bhartiya City on the 7th of December 2012.

Guns 'N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore

Bangalore Rock pioneers Thermal And A Quarter kicked off the show with a really tight set. They played some old tracks and some new from their recently released Three Wheels Nine Lives album. As usual, they burned through their set effortlessly and got the crowd warmed up. I was happy to hear their cover of ‘In Bloom’ which they haven’t played for some time. The crowd then waited eagerly for GNR and boy did the audience get wild when Axl casually walked on to the stage.

Guns 'N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore

And a second later we’re hit by ‘Chinese Democracy’, a really cool track from the post Slash period. The first thing I noticed about GNR was their massive sound. Crunchy guitar tones perfect for riffs like the one in the beginning of ‘Chinese Democracy‘. In terms of sound and production this gig was only second to Roger Waters Live in Bombay (2007), for me at least. The band spared no expense and all their equipment was shipped down, including two pianos and even the small stage used to raise the drum kit. The opening riff to ‘Chinese Democracy‘ made it clear to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this would be a concert to remember.

Guns 'N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore

Apart from their infamous wall of sound, the musicians themselves were extremely talented. Each of the three guitar players has a very unique style and are brilliant musicians in their own right. I also appreciated the fact that when they played the old classics, they were played exactly the way they were recorded. I mean, there is nothing really to improve on these tracks, pure nostalgia trip.

The band went on to play old classics interspersed with some newer compositions. ‘Nightrain’, ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Rocket Queen’ stood out for me. These tracks sound great on tape but they sounded insane live. I could really feel the band’s energy when they were playing these tracks and it really got the old school fans going. Tommy Stinson, with his punk influence did justice to those songs and drummer Frank Ferrer didn’t fail to impress. Axl Rose has done a fantastic job of finding phenomenal musicians to fill in really big shoes, which were never meant to be filled.

Guns 'N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore

Of course no GNR gig would be complete without the more popular tracks like ‘November Rain’ and ‘Patience’. ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ was almost entirely drowned for the most part by the audience singing along. Keyboardist Chris Pitman was a pleasure to watch, great stage presence.

Many people have criticized Axl Rose for not being the vocalist he used to be. To be honest, doing what he is doing and for this long, it is a miracle that he can still sing and put on a great show. He might not have the energy that he had 15 years ago (who does?) but he can still kick some ass. It was evident that he was giving it his all like a true musician would, especially during the heavier tracks towards the end of the set. I was amazed to see that they put on a complete 3 hour set! International acts of the same caliber that are coming to India for the first time, or even after a long hiatus and do not plan , should not leave the audience after short set, playing only their popular tracks. GNR took me on a trip down memory lane and they pretty much covered all their albums.

Guns 'N Roses at Bhartiya City, Bangalore

GNR didn’t just start with a bang but keeping to the GNR ethos, ended with one that was louder. The concert came to an end with a cult classic – ‘Paradise City’. I was happy that they chose this track as their final act and not ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine‘. The whole band for this last track and it was intense. Axl did a really good job on this one. To top it all off, during the breakdown of the song, the audience was doused in red confetti. You had to be there. Sophisticated writers don’t say this often, but it was really fucking cool. After the audience had a few minutes to calm down, the band came out to thank us for being wonderful hosts. Axl’s parting words ‘Stay away from the popo (police)’.

The organizers could have done a much better job of the concert. It took us nearly 2 hours get our car out of the parking lot onto the main road (with a couple of dents) even though there wasn’t a spectacularly large audience present. But other organizers have set low enough standards and people didn’t seem to bother after such a killer show.


The Explosive TAAQ Sizzles The BFlat Bar, Bangalore


Thermal and a Quarter is arguably one of India’s most successful and talented bands. Success of course doesn’t come without hard work and boy does this band work hard! Bruce and the gang who recently got back from their Singapore/US tour are recording their new album called Three Wheels Nine Lives and are playing explosive gigs such as the one in BFlat on 16 June 2012. I must say that I was one of the privileged few to have experienced such a mind blowing performance. I ran into Ramanan Chandramouli, LA Music Academy graduate and a faculty at Taaqademy, who acknowledged that this was the best Thermal gig he had witnessed in recent times. The sound at BFlat was marvellous as always and beautifully complimented the band’s technical versatility.

As I was sitting at the bar counter waiting for the gig to start, I saw Bruce Lee Mani get up on stage armed with his guitar and ready to belt out a tune all by himself. The floor was jam packed with TAAQ fans eagerly waiting for the show to begin. Bruce dedicated the first song ‘Terrible Trouble’ to his wife who was among the audience. The song was about his father-in-law, who belongs to a very different cultural and religious background from Bruce. The lyrics were funny and showcased Bruce’s tasteful song writing skills. The amazing Prakash K.N and the dexterous Rajeev Rajagopal joined Bruce and the mighty Thermal and a Quarter took stage. They played a mix of old and new tunes such as ‘For the Cat’‘De-Arranged’‘Mighty Strange’‘Aerodynamic’ and ‘Billboard Bride’. The band had performed ‘For the Cat’ (a tribute to Cat Stevens) and ‘Billboard Bride’ ’last November when they had played at this venue and one gets a feeling that each time these songs sound even better. The number of people in The BFlat Bar seemed to be exponentially increasing and every single one of them found themselves grooving to the irresistible Bangalore Rock sound of TAAQ.

Next up was ‘If Them Blues’, a song which was preceded by an amazing guitar and bass jam. Then, Thermal belted out their rendition of the classic‘Roxanne’. The breaks in this song were particularly noteworthy showcasing the fascinating tightness the band is famous for. ‘Chainese Item’ was up next and the band started the song very differently as compared to the studio version. The breathtaking stacatto solo was backed by immensely powerful drumming. After this song, Bruce wished all the people who were celebrating their birthdays before launching into the next tune, ‘Birthday’. The rhythm section during the guitar solo section of this song was particularly interesting as Prakash played chords on his 6-string bass guitar remarkably complementing Bruce. It was interesting to note that the audience consisted of people from varying age groups ranging from college kids who were standing right in front of the stage to 50 year olds who were comfortably seated in sofas.

By the time the band started ‘Jupiter Cafe’, the crowd was in full swing getting steadily high on Thermal. TAAQ plays ‘Jupiter Cafe’ differently each time they play it and I strongly feel that this was by far the best performance of the song by the band. The trio started the song with an elaborate jam session with Prakash playing a lot of harmonics on his bass while Rajeev displayed some very clever use of cymbals. The crowd sang the entire song, including the solo section, along with Bruce. Next up was ‘Meter Mele One and a Half’, a song whose opening lines were “three wheels and nine lives”. This song with a dangerously catchy chorus is about auto rickshaws in Bangalore. The versatile use of the cowbell by Rajeev impressed the audience and Bruce’s stegatto solo in this song was par excellence.

Thermal’s music cuts across boundaries and reaches across to a vast audience creating a cross cultural connection. The band has received tremendous success during their US tour making them one of India’s very few acts to have won accolades overseas. The band proceeded to finish the set with ‘Won’t stop’‘In the Middle’ and ‘Dangerous Mind’. I must say there were a couple of awkward pauses in the last song which gave one a feeling that somebody had messed up something but the trio quickly covered up their mistakes.

When it was finally time for the band to call it a day, the crowd did not let Thermal leave the stage. After a few minutes of loud persuasion, the band finally gave in and played ‘Chameleon’, the last song of the night. The gig was an exhilarating experience which will linger in my head for a long time. Long live Bangalore Rock!

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Anand Kumar

Anand Kumar plays bass guitar with a few Bangalore bands on and off. He is a coordinator with Songbound - a music outreach initiative that uses singing to reach out to India’s most impoverished children via collaborative projects with schools, choirs and professional musicians worldwide. His other interests include discovering new music on YouTube and computer programming.