A number of conversations I’ve had about Dandaniya Apraadh – the occasionally hilarious, always irreverent new album by lo-fi disco punks Hoirong – have revolved around concerns about gimmickry and authenticity. One scene veteran told me “they’re trying too hard to be hipster”. Even NH7 writer Ritwik Deshpande wonders if “the sound Hoirong are peddling is inherently gimmicky,” before pointing out that the sheer unmarketability of their music makes this an untenable assertion. I find it a little ironic that with all the PR-driven, marketing oriented acts in the indie scene today, it’s the lo-fi punk band that raises the authenticity red flag. But I think this is less about authenticity than about the cynicism that comes with commercialization. We’ve seen so many bands use edgy counter-cultural posturing as a way to sell their bland, safe product that we’re immediately suspicious of anything that looks like the real thing. Or perhaps we’re all so invested in the idea of indie music as business that we’re confounded by someone who treats it all as a joke. Why would they risk their punk ‘cred’ with Baba Sehgal and Spice Girls covers? Why is their production so bad? Why are they so hard to interview? In short, why aren’t they taking all this as seriously as I am?!
But Hoirong might actually be the real thing. Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Kamal Singh, the band really does not give a fuck about Indian indie, at least as the term is defined and packaged by the industry’s gatekeepers. Nothing is sacred for Hoirong, least of all themselves; and their marketing strategy for this new album was basically to poke fun at marketing strategies. The only thing that they seem to take seriously is their music, and none of the rest would matter if it wasn’t so damn good.
Their underrated debut album, The Resurrection of the Princess of Woe and Her Vampire Hound Posse (TROTPOWAHVHP), laid the template with alt-rock melodies, Bollywood references, and digs at their contemporaries buried under layers of red-lined guitar noise. On Dandaniya Apraadh, they build on that template and expand it to include sounds from industrial, metal, shoegaze, pop and even dance music. This evolution is also helped by the step up in production. It’s still extremely lo-fi, but the mix is more balanced, less likely to blow up your speakers, and there’s a lot more space for them to try out their new ideas. The fifteen tracks on the album cover a diverse range of sounds – from the lo-fi post-rock of ‘Gentlemen’s Club of Noida’ to the 90s alt-stomp of ‘Sameer Aggarwal’ and the guitar-tabla-Bollywood pastiche of ‘A Kind and Humble Request’. What ties them all together – apart from the omnipresent layers of guitar noise – is New Delhi, where the band is currently located. The capital city looms large over all aspects of the record, starting with the album’s name which means ‘punishable offence’. It supposedly comes from the regular announcements on the Delhi metro, but it could just as possibly be a reference to their aborted second gig at the PCRC penthouse which was unceremoniously shut down by the Delhi police. As Kamal told me in a recent interview, “I chose the name because I think it resonates with many things in the way Delhi works.”
Lyrically, Dandaniya Apraadh is a wry, sardonic piss-take that mercilessly pokes fun at the social, cultural, and political realities of life in the national capital. Songs like ‘Don’t Mind’ and the nu-metallish ‘Awesome Bro’ satirize the occasionally hostile and generally inane social interactions that characterize life in the city. Album highlight ‘Kutta’, which assaults you with explosive riffs and industrial noise while Kamal takes digs at the PM-elect with lines like “Let’s build you a temple with a golden monument/ Exile all the residents, it’s time for develo-payment”. The chorus (“Raise your hands up and fight for nothing at all”) is either a critique of our generation’s ideological and political bankruptcy, or a rallying cry for the nihilistic masses. Either way, you can’t help but sing along. And then there’s the hilariously weird ‘Gaming With Your Hertz’, where mellow keys and a single feedback-laden guitar set the mood while a drunk middle class man pleads with us to “help each other”, but to never give alms to “hoarding” and “manipulating” young people. By the time he breaks out into a rendition of ‘Zindagi Maut Na Ban Jaaye’, you’re torn between the familiarity of the experience (at least to anyone who regularly gives money to beggars in front of well-meaning but intrusive strangers), and the other-worldly strangeness of finding it on a noise-punk record. Other targets include fake accents, and the ‘trustafarians’ who have colonized HKV.
Dandaniya Apraadh then is an album that both reflects and critiques life in India’s bustling megapolises. The music reflects the industrial cacophony we’re exposed to everyday (as I write this, there’s a loud electric drill being used in the office next door). The lyrics speak to the other cacophony we experience daily – the chatter of spoilt rich kids, the meddling of intrusive strangers, unprovoked aggression, and a kakotopian socio-politics. Its music to dance to as everything else falls apart around you. Or as the band like to call it, “dystopian disco punk.” It’s also one of the best albums to have come out this year.
Buy the album online on OKListen.
Stream Dandaniya Apraadh by Hoirong below:
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