When I listen to some of my favourite musicians’ discographies in chronological order, the one thing that’s most apparent while album hopping is a consistent trend towards maturity. It holds true even during some catastrophic missteps and bad decisions (St. Anger, anyone?). It’s the reason why most young musicians (myself included) are so insufferable. Listening to them is listening to them practice and compete rather than making music. Who wants to listen to someone learning how to speak? Rarely do we get a final, finished, teenage-rebellion-and-acne free act releasing its debut album.
Sonic Flare is promising precisely for this reason. One listen and you intuitively know that the people playing here are older, and more experienced – and critically- more secure. I could immediately tell and sure enough, the band bio backed it up. It’s clear that most of the band members are individual, fully realized (if derivative) musical personalities, well versed in the nuances of structure and arrangement. So how does their debut album stack up?
Most young musicians are insufferable.
The sound can best be described a gentle variant of funk rock with a classic rock background. Makes sense? It’s not the easiest thing to pull off, but the instrumentalists have the confidence and skill to pull it off, especially the bass player. The songs come alive with his playful, funky approach and wrinkle free pocket with the drummer. “Beautiful World” is a genuinely danceable number with its thumpy chorus and jangly intro. The guitar playing is song centric, but not memorable. The solos could be more assertive and more than merely pleasant fillers. “Stay” is a good example; it’s far from the highlight of the song, but more on those lines would be welcome.
The problems with this album are few, but they require close attention. Firstly, the singer is far from spot on. Too often the songs don’t reach their full potential because the vocals just don’t work for me. Sometimes, like on “I, Me, Myself”, they hurt the song. I get the whole raw and untrained charisma thing, and I could hear elements of that in his singing. But I think the vocals need more refining for a band that sounds this airy; they also need to be mixed lower to give more breathing space to the solid rhythm section. He doesn’t fit. The second problem is that the music isn’t original at all. It’s very well executed, well produced and will probably we well received too, but progress this ain’t. More originality, that comes from picking up diverse influences would be awesome. This is – I think – one of the downsides of being from a band with older members. Their main influences are still somewhere in the 70’s and 80’s, making the overall sound a permutation of things I have already heard.
In the scheme of Indian rock, I suppose this is a good start. As a project started by working professionals in their off time, it’s really quite good. Weekend performances? Check. Being well-known local band? Check. But if Sonic Flare wants pan-Indian and perhaps international attention, some more fire in the belly would be much appreciated. This sounds somewhat right.