The difference, say, between Them Clones and any other band playing on a rock-format radio station anywhere else in the world is negligible: tightly produced, technically impeccable, clinically efficient bog-standard power-chord fare. There’s practically nothing unique about them in any way — again raising the spectre of novelty appeal.
And then there are the lyrics. A song called Zephyretta runs, “Am I feeling what I should feel/ Or is it just something unreal/ Cloud of oceans big and blue/ In my mind I’m feeling you/ In my heart in my face/ In my love in my fears.” Right on target, if ‘embarrassing middle-school poetry’ is the desired effect.
More importantly, the entire operation flounders in complete cultural disconnection. These bands exist in an odd liminal space, neither Indian nor western in music or lyrics. In a sense, Them Clones are exemplars of Indian rock, completely oblivious to rock and roll being an opportunity and platform to say something meaningful or articulate attitude and a sense of rebellion — settling into comfortable mediocrity instead. As John puts it, “In the end, bands don’t have an identity. Your music’s not rooted when you sing in English — when you sing in your own language, it’s meaningful.”
Kutty, meanwhile, says, “The Indian rock scene right now comes from rapid urban globalization,” he says, “and that’s pretty evident from the sound it’s creating.” This globlised template includes fusion bands like Avial, Swarathma and Indian Ocean, who integrate traditional melodies, rhythms and instruments into a rock framework, attempting to create a kind of music grounded in India. “I’m not crazy about Indian Ocean’s music,” says Grewal, “but I think they’re one of the best bands to come out of India. They’ve found that Indian sound — without it being a Mumbai sound or a Delhi sound, or an LA-New York sound. It’s their own.” That one of the most original bands in the country has been working within the same musical model for 30 years is, frankly, shocking.