• Tue, Aug 11, 2020
Reviews

Mumbai Band Insignia Are Full Of Life On Assured New Album

7.0

album Reviews Apr 27, 09:38am

‘Various Tendencies’ has a lot going for it and shows their admirable commitment to genre
 Photo Courtesy: Insignia

Remember rock? That genre that is all but dead? There are many discussions and debates on what exactly happened to the genre. Some say it was all about the booze and drugs and that lifestyle isn’t a thing anymore while others say it was just a matter of music changing as it always does. Mumbai band Insignia does not give a shadow of a damn about such arguments, it seems; their new album ‘Various Tendencies’ is a dedicated attempt to happily explore every rock trope that exists and focus instead on writing good, catchy songs. Turns out that’s not the worst idea.

This album would be far less listenable without its very good production and performances. The overall mix is really punchy and powerful when it needs to be. Nihar Pansare is super dependable on drums and keeps things relatively simple (a great attitude to approach rock music with). Harikesh Shekhar has a grungy and sometimes nasal voice that he uses to great effect; he also has some pretty well-written lead guitar parts that he puts in pretty much every song here. There are moments where the long solos are a bit unnecessary but they are few and far between. Shashank Shetty is the real rock on this album. His basslines are great and the production ensures that he is heard clearly. There are certain tracks where he is the one driving the whole thing. Nishant S. Nair and Nishant R. Nair provide some really good rhythm guitars and keys in places, which is another important aspect of this album. The band pays no heed to whether something is derivative, old-sounding or corny. They take an idea and follow it to its conclusion with a confidence. This results in songs that somewhat work in spite of their obvious references. In fact, as one listens to most of the ten tracks on ‘Various Tendencies’, such critical thoughts fade away and are replaced by appreciation for how committed Insignia are.

 

 

There are some outright hits on the tracklist. Opener ‘Lemon’ is chock-full of personality with its 90s riffs and Harikesh’s raspy delivery. Insignia loves their grunge and their 2000s alternative; there are many points on the album where they inject that tiny bit of darkness the 90s were known for. The solo on this track is also a great fit. ‘Never Drop By’ is a genuinely good ballad with a really great middle section and suitably sentimental lyrics. The experience of what they are trying to channel is completed by a great outro and fantastic vocals. The song just doesn’t have anything disagreeable about it. ‘Fallout’ is the band’s foray into a higher tempo and pop-punk, and it’s another highlight. The chorus is catchy and the backing instrumentation is simple in the right way. The band shows themselves to be highly accomplished at writing parts that get stuck in your head throughout the album. ‘Sole Survivor’ is one of the better slower-paced tracks here; it echoes Pixies and classic rock in equal measure. In fact, Insignia relies a lot on the quiet-loud formula that was used by Pixies, Radiohead and so many other alternative acts in the 90s. As long as it results in good songwriting as it does here, it’s a good way to go. ‘Right Here With You’ is overtly poppy and has mid-90s riffs with vocal melodies straight out of something in the hair metal era. Nevertheless, it’s a good time once all notions are discarded. In fact, that is the sentiment with ‘Various Tendencies’; if one can let go of all their crusty thinking about sound and what’s outdated, great music is to be found. There are times when this fails to be the case, however. ‘Another Try’ is too self-indulgent and bubbly for its own good. ‘Tales Of Love’ would probably have been fine in 2003, but now the road of pure pop-rock has been trodden far too much for this song to be a highlight by virtue of its songwriting. In fact, a similar trope is used on ‘Another Try’ with slightly more success. The album’s closer ‘Is It Over?’ has some really aggressive instrumentation but the vocal melody is a bit out of place and the whole thing doesn’t come together as well as it should. This highlights the only difficulty with the album; when the songwriting isn’t completely on point and almost flawless, the aforementioned critical thoughts about genre, sound and so on come flooding back. Insignia are climbing uphill here.

With that being said, this album is going to be great for a great many people. Anyone who just misses the sound of the classic four-piece band setup is going to absolutely love this album. It sounds great and the band is a tight unit. Fans of classic rock, grunge and sugary pop-rock from the new millennium will be similarly pleased. For people whose musical tastes have changed rather than evolved, however, it’s a different matter. If your tastes are firmly in 2020 with its genre explosion, experimental weirdness and deep indie albums, ‘Various Tendencies’ is going to sound dated and derivative. But hey, maybe it’s just not for you or maybe it will remind you of a time gone by. And no matter what, it’s a good collection of songs.

Listen to 'Various Tendencies' here.

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