This month our Record of the Week feature focusses on seven new releases from the amazing Tian An Men 89 Records label. Go to tam89records.com for more info on these releases, and check out Maximum Rocknroll‘s October issue for all of these reviews and many, many more!
V/A – Disenfranchised in India compilation LP
Tian An Men 89‘s documentation of punk and alternative rock in far-flung corners of the world continues with its first-ever compilation of bands from India from the last decade. TAM89′s website contains a succinct explanation of its desire to document and encourage self-expression in different countries, whatever the permutations and definitions of alternative punk music people choose, regardless of styles and trends in the West. This does however collide with the mass globalization of punk and alternative music, by both major labels marketing to “emerging markets,” their use in Hollywood films that are distributed globally, and the internet allowing access to a clear idea of “what you’re supposed to do”… So there are sometimes less surprises than you’d hope for, as some band in Delhi basically regurgitates the ’90s Seattle grunge sound and NIRVANA or GREEN DAY, as those influences are sometimes more apparent than people with a vague idea left to just make up their own thing on a limited set of resources or ideas. Punk’s radical DIY template is its greatest victory, not the music, not the fashion or specific ideas, but the ability for people to take control of their own music, art and culture as an avenue for self expression—and there’s a great power in forwarding that in new places via these compilations, where bands can see their music pressed to vinyl, often for the first time, and exposed to a worldwide audience. But, despite the open-minded approach to punk, it’s still looking for a Western set of music values (the concept of punk itself) in a country that probably has way better local music that has nothing to do with punk or hardcore. Set that aside, the fourteen bands here each contribute one track with a lyric sheet and short history of each band, and there’re a lot of rewards here for the open minded not looking for a specific sound or result. The comp opens with one of its strongest tracks, by TRITHA ELECTRIC BAND—an eclectic trip-hop/ethno-punk artist from Kolkata who tours extensively in Europe, whose track here, “Fish Market,” is more of a punk-edged new wave stomper—like a hard TONI BASIL track but with the same infectious, bouncy fun and catchiness. JEEPERS CREEPERS play a catchy track of lo-fi indie rock, threaded around a solid spindling guitar line. BLAKHOLE cranks one of the comp’s few fast, noisy thrash blasts. BULL ENGINE approximates the aforementioned ’90s Sub Pop grunge sound, with a heavy Cobain-ish twang. Mumbai’s PUNK ON TOAST plays stripped down, garagey punk that is actually not too far off from, say, THEE HEADCOATS, but with ’80s-style boilerplate political lyrics and meek vocals. The RIOT PEDDLERS have a high-energy melodic hardcore sound that would be well at home in Orange County skateparks. The SCRATCH CARDS play solid, basic hard rock ‘n’ roll. TRIPWIRE plays jangly mid-tempo punk with a ’60s pop feel. And OUTLINERS end the comp with a dreamy, layered track reminiscent of one of the more subdued B-sides by the ENGLISH BEAT or SPECIALS, with its shuffling ska-ish guitar lines.