Shillong-based rock band Rum and Monkeys have been on a roll the past couple of months, hitting quite a few important milestones in their career. From playing in several music festivals to providing the official soundtrack for WWE India – they have come a long way since their inception in the winter of 2018. They also came out with their debut EP Tales of a Tasteless Kid in August, a peppy yet heartfelt pop-rock record that doesn’t shy away from pouring its heart out in its 23-minute run-time.
The EP cherishes an indelible spirit of youthful frolic, nurturing a confessional tone in its core simultaneously. These work together to maintain a balanced contrast in its overall vibe. Rum and Monkeys have paid more attention to conveying a message through the EP rather than focusing on musicality or how it sounds– one that doesn’t stand out too much but is what you’d expect from a juvenile indie-rock record with minimal compositional or production efforts. From high-energy tracks like “Fish”, “Young Waste-Land” and “Blind” to slow-burn doleful numbers like “Junkie” and “October 26th”, the album molds its textures into an all-round vibrant soundscape that reeks of teenage angst as much as it sheds light on its sensibility at certain junctures. The band’s choice of using a spoken word monologue “Hail da Monkees” to open the album comes as a declaration of its eventual confessional nature. At the same time, it is also a declaration to the self – a positive reinforcement of who they are and what they are all about. With “Fish” and “Young Waste-land” it tunes into its jumpy pop and alt-rock flavours while the latter dials up the volume with its energetic and zippy colours, a nostalgic sound that is reminiscent of early 2000s pop-punk and emo-rock.
“Junkie” indulges in dream-pop-influenced elements in the intro – melodic and repetitive in its approach to make space for the vocals to kick in. Slowly, it introduces more ebullient drumming that provides a punch to it. It is vulnerable and passionate, harbouring subtle shades of wistfulness that tug at your heartstrings. In hindsight, a 5-minute-long pop-rock track seemed a little unnecessary to say the least, since it could’ve easily been wrapped up much more compactly. A similar sense of sentimentality is passed on to “October 26th” which is essentially a letter to a loved one whose presence meant a great deal. Ending the album on an electrifying note, “Blind” uplifts the mood once again by incorporating bubbly textures. It’s hopeful, promising, and reassuring.
Although an understandably run-of-the-mill debut record, Tales of a Tasteless Kid wears its emotions on its sleeve, unabashedly displaying its soft edges and overwhelming vulnerability. Itfalls behind heavily in creativity coming off as rather immature in certain ways but tries its best to uphold a sense of sincerity and honesty in its narrative, not flinching from addressing the delicate parts of life, the ones that are usually slipped under the rug made of nonchalance and detachment. Just as it is a scorching love letter full of disdain, it is also a warm, affectionate embrace in others. It goes without saying that the wholesomeness that Rum and Monkeys have displayed in their debut EP deserves some level of acknowledgment and validation.