Menwhopause: Within City Limits
The Delhi rock band are at their cynical and experimental
best on their third album ‘Neon Delhi’
If you thought Mumbai made a perfect muse for dark, delirious poets and musicians, Delhi rock band Menwhopause feel that the Capital evokes a certain melancholy. Guitarist Anup Kutty says about their latest album, “Neon Delhi is set in the near future. For all you know, it could even be the distant past. There are semblances to a city we grew up in. But mostly things have changed. The sounds have changed. The drugs have changed. The buildings have changed. The politics has changed. Neon Delhi is a compilation of vignettes.”
Neon Delhi also marks the first album minus vocalist Sarabjit Singh Chadha and with inputs from three different drummers – Paul Schneiter [recording engineer and longtime drummer for the band], Sahil Mendiratta [from psychedelic rock band Indigo Children] and current choice Bhanu Thakur. Kutty adds, “This album especially highlights Paul’s magic behind the recording deck.” But that’s not where the liner notes would end. The eight-track album features Menwhopause’s mellow forlorn sound of acoustic and electric guitars on tracks such as “Does That Feel Good?” and “Feeling Right”.
There’s also more experimentation this time, complete with a varied list of guest artists. Kutty says, “Menwhopause was always a collaborative effort. We’ve lived out our musical fantasies by getting a really diverse set of artists and playing producers.”
There are appearances by American jazz pianist Grant Richards, Rajasthani khamancha folk trio GFD and [poet-guitarist] Jeet Thayil’s spoken word on Neon Delhi. Kutty adds, “There’s a short instrumental piece composed by Sumar Khan – an 80-year-old Algoza [twin flute] player. He guards a ghost town in the desert rumored to have treasures buried inside. All day he sits at the gates, playing his Algoza. If there ever was a pied piper, it’s him.”
Like their best-known songs “Easy”, “Keep” and “Father Monologue”, Menwhopause are very much aiming for stories through spoken word and field recordings. Their lead single “On A Boat”, however, is frenzied, funny and funky, mixed by Berlin-based Australian engineer Victor van Vugt, who has previously worked with the likes of Sonic Youth and Nick Cave. It features Delhi-based rapper Faadu aka Aditya Parihar. The rapper has in the past jammed with the band at the odd club gigs in Delhi to the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh. Kutty says of Faadu, “He’s another genius whose work we were introduced to by [writer and journalist] Palash Mehrotra. We had to hunt him down to his hideout in East Delhi and get him to work on this song.”
Thematically, the underlying tone is that of a cynic for Menwhopause, who are now led by vocalist-bassist Randeep Singh, Kutty and guitarist IP Singh. Kutty hints that the writing process was disrupted due to the major record label treatment their 2011 album Easy was meted out. “When Easy was out, we were high on youthful dreams. There was hope, there were incessant gigs, parties, new cities, new friends. The crash following an album is worse than a coke downer. You wallow in some bullshit idea of an achievement,” Kutty says.
That comedown seems to have made them reflect on their city as well, from the 1984 riots to the road rampage of the infamous redline private buses [that Kutty probably deliberately calls “bloodthirsty redline buses”] that killed hundreds. The guitarist changes the topic to talk about the sounds they have sampled on Neon Delhi, saying, “The overbearing sound of the city right now are these drills that are bringing down old houses and replacing them with glass and steel towers. There’s never silence here.”
Neon Delhi is mixed by Delhi-based keyboardist Akshat Taneja [from the likes of psych rock band Udan Tashtri, prog metallers Guillotine and a live member for Menwhopause] and will be released independently. Kutty calls the end of their contract with Universal/EMI [who released Easy] as a “blessing”. The guitarist adds, “It’s back to our DIY roots albeit at a much better period of time. There are way more options and opportunities to get our music out there than it was about five years ago, although commercially things may not really have looked up. I mean, independent musicians seem to be making the same kind of money they were a few years ago.”