Hujan & Bunkface: Back and rocking harder
|Aidil Rusli loves rock 'n' roll, still believes in the words "indie" and "underground", and after all these years still sings in his band Couple myspace.com/couple. You can get in touch with Aidil by emailing: [email protected]|
JULY 28 ― It’s been a quiet year in terms of new Malaysian albums, especially from bands in the indie scene. The indie scene itself has been relatively quiet, with not many gigs happening lately and a lot of bands happy to even get to play one gig a month.
The lack of new albums or new singles of course contributed to that, but another big factor is the sudden dearth of strategically-located gig venues in or around the centre of Kuala Lumpur.
To this day, people still lament the loss of the MCPA Theatre (the one upstairs, not the big hall downstairs), located right beside the Maharajalela Monorail Station, which was home to what seemed like almost weekly gigs for a period of almost two years.
Easy to get to and with just the right size and atmosphere, I still think it was the best gig venue we’ve ever had so far. It’s also the place where the two biggest young bands in Malaysia right now, Hujan and Bunkface, first cut their teeth and made a name for themselves.
Having graduated to the big leagues with countless radio hits and playing bigger and bigger shows, I know there are a lot of people out there who sometimes miss seeing them on smaller stages, like the ones they used to rock during their early days.
I’m not sure if it’s a hint of a return to their indie roots or anything like that, but within only a month of each other, the two bands have both released new albums that some people in the mainstream might simply call commercial suicide for being on the “wrong” side of commercial viability.
Hujan came out with its new album, Sang Enemy, first. As they’ve hinted during their shows since the middle of last year, they’ve taken on a harder-edged “metalcore” and “emocore” influence with their new songs, and their new seven-song album should please all the kids out there who are currently entranced by this whole “metalcore” trend sweeping the nation for the last two years or so.
I’m sure there’ll be people out there easily dismissing Hujan as jumping on the “metalcore” bandwagon with this new album, as there was never a hint of metal in their previous releases, but I doubt many people realise that they actually are fans of the genre, albeit maybe new ones, but love it they surely do.
And listening to how well they’ve integrated the “metalcore” elements into their sound, you can immediately tell that this is not some cynical ploy to win over a certain segment of the market, but more an honest attempt by fans of the genre to incorporate it into their own band’s sound.
Just a short listen to “Janji Kita” or “Mana Mungkin”, and I dare you not to be taken in by the band’s exuberance. I’d even say that this is probably my favourite Hujan album yet, in terms of unity of spirit and sound, with “DBS” surely ear candy to older fans yet fitting in beautifully with the rest of the album.
Bunkface released their second album Bunk Not Dead just last week, and you can tell just from the album title how “naughty” this album is. Famed for their anthemic brand of punk pop, I’ve always found them to be much better taken in small doses, meaning they’re a superb singles band but less than superb album band.
Not so with this album. Older fans will bemoan the lack of obvious and sure-fire hit singles like “Situasi”, “Silly Lily” or “Ekstravaganza”, but as someone who’s highly appreciative of the craft of the album, this one hits a hell of a lot of the right notes for me.
It’s a shame that the album’s first single “Panik” was reportedly banned by some stations because of the use of the word “reformasi” in its lyrics, because it really is a terrific trademark Bunkface single. But the album’s opening 1-2-3 wallop of “More”, “Bunk Not Dead!” and “Hollywood Just Died!” is an infectiously tough yet catchy way to start an album.
I’m not so sure how well these three songs will do taken as radio singles, but as punk rock songs to pump your fists in the air to, they’ll do very well indeed. The Garrison they’re still not and nowhere near will be, but Blink 182 they’re not either.
If you don’t mind listening to Green Day from “American Idiot” onwards, then I think you’d be surprised at how much you’ll like this album, especially if you’ve dismissed them as being typical radio fodder pop-punk after their debut album.
So there we have it, the country’s two biggest young bands releasing two quite good but not too obviously commercial albums. Quite a ballsy move, if I may say so. And by making themselves sort of underdogs again with their new albums, I just can’t help but fall in love with them all over again.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.