Rock music in India has a (relatively) brief history. While older generations were no doubt aware of the Jimi Hendrixes, Led Zeppelins and Deep Purples of the world, before the early ’90s rock music was mostly confined to the ears of teenagers who had family or friends abroad and who could send them records and tapes of those bands. There was simply no mainstream presence of rock on radio or TV.
However, as the ’90s rolled around the cable-television revolution took hold in India, and with it came MTV. Suddenly teenagers everywhere were bombarded with Metallica, Guns n’ Roses, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There was no discernment of style. If you were alive, self-aware and young in 1992, you simply loved all of these bands equally because they all made rock music. Grey Shack is clearly part of this generation.
Over the course of Step Outside’s relatively brief playing time, Grey Shack aspires to be nothing more than a blues-based classic-rock band. While the band’s members don’t have long hair or rampant drug addictions (as far as I know), their music speaks to a time when both of those were in fashion. Step Outside runs the gamut of early ’90s rock styles, referencing hair metal, grunge and funk, and checking off all the tropes of the era as they go along. Sleazy riffs? Check. Pentatonic “blooze” guitar solos? Check. Power ballads? Check. Lusty lyrical tales of good times and femme fatales? Double check.
For what it’s worth, Grey Shack love making the music they’re making and they’re pretty good at it. Vikram Vivekanand on guitars stands out the most with some neat soloing that rarely strays from the Angus Young school of hard rock soloing but doesn’t devolve into cliche or mindless wanking either. The rhythm section of Vinay Ramakrishnan (drums) and Madhav Ravindranath (bass) is tight and powerful and even manages a little swing in the backbeats. Rohan Sen’s voice sounds rather a lot like Roger Daltrey and thankfully goes easy on the histrionics.
When the band clicks, they are certainly capable of “rawking”, as seen on the cool lopsided riff of Monkey Man and the sheer energy of Gonzo. The title track builds nicely from a mellow opening to a raucous middle section before settling into a singalong reggae section that probably works better in a live setting than it does here. One Night has the kind of funky jam band vibe that was all the rage in the early ’90s. The low point of the album is Dirty City which, from its shamelessly sleazy riffing to its rather trite lyrics, is an obvious homage to the Sunset Strip circa 1989. Fortunately this shlockiness doesn’t extend to the ballads like New Day.
Step Outside is ultimately a bit of rather silly nostalgic fun, if you’re into that kind of thing. However, the band settles into the safe mediocrity of pleasantly workmanlike bar band blues and lacks the kind of over-the-top flair and charisma that classic rock revivalists like The Darkness possess. If you’re a member of Generation X who thinks that “they simply don’t make music like they used to”, then this is for you. If not, then you should probably give this a pass.
Rating: 3 / 5
1. Beautiful Man
2. Dirty City
3. One Night Stand
4. New Day
6. Monkey Man
7. Step Outside
8. Gonzo (Bonus Track)