Ajay Mathur’s new album “9 to 3” draws from diverse rock inspiration
by Lara Haase
Check out the album for yourself on Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/9to3/sets/9to3
Ajay Mathur’s 9 to 3 is an album sourcing from various sub-genres of rock, including Americana and neo-blues. Perhaps the diversity is due to the artist’s Swiss and Indian background which would have exposed him to the various sub-genres somewhat objectively and in a more balanced manner than if he were American.
The album opens with an acoustic guitar riff extremely reminiscent of the theme from the TV show Friends. Mathur quickly chimes in with his vocals that are not bad, but seem misplaced. His voice is very clear and rings out, while the sound of the song seems to require a rougher, perhaps less schooled timbre. Lyrically “Sitting By Your Cradle” hints at feelings we all have that there’s just not enough time in the day, with Mathur specifically focusing on the fact that his son isn’t around anymore.
The mood makes a quick shift with “Nothing Really Matters” with a dark, dirge-like electric guitar. The song about heartache takes inspiration from late-90s goth rock or perhaps a less nuanced Queens of the Stone Age. Yet Mathur’s vocal belt sounds like Broadway singer Adam Pascal, (Roger in Rent and the lead singer of the winning band in School of Rock), which is a bit strange within a heavy rock shell.
“Latin Lover” makes another sudden shift in genre into a light-hearted song about flirtation. As the title suggests there are more Latin musical elements, such as hand drums. Once again however, Mathur’s voice seems inappropriate, perhaps because of the lack of a Latin accent.
Slow-tempo love ballad “Oh Angel” allows the listener a moment to rest and reflect. The opening sitar notes allude to an Indian stylization, but overall Mathur sticks to a more typical pop-rock structure and timbre.
In the song“My World (SOS to the Universe)” Mathur concerns himself first with his own personal frustrations, then moves into concern for the greater community of the world as a whole. Perhaps one of the album’s more lyrically driven songs, Mathur doesn’t seem to take as many instrumental chances and sticks with a general rock sound, even bringing in a children choir, reminding me strongly of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” This song has ranked on a few airplay charts and has been on the USA National Airplay Charts 7 weeks in a row.
Mathur brings back the sitar a bit stronger to create a mystic feel in “I Song,” which lyrically focuses on one’s desires and the power they can have over us. While it seemed to be alluding to Buddhist teaching, in the hook Mathur refers to wearing “my crown of thorns in his grace,” certainly refering to Jesus.
Again a significant shift surprises the listener with a more upbeat feel in “All Up to Vanity.” This song gives a nod to 50’s pop with backup singers even giving it a “do-wop” sound. Here, Mathur’s voice seems to make sense more than anywhere else on the album: it is smooth and flows well in the rhythm.
“Love Madness” starts by giving a turntable feel with a few cracks and pops and someone giving a “okay” signal to the musicians, who kick off into a deep blues electric guitar riff. The Texas blues sound, heavily influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughn, is continued with Mathur’s vocals belting out the hook.
With “Sleepy Moments” and “Password Love” Mathur reverts back to general pop-rock songs about love and attraction. “Surfing Girl” at first seems lyrically vapid, yet discusses a part of current culture that devours an ever increasing portion of our lives.
Mathur finally ends the album with “I Mantra,” bringing back more sitar as well as lots of tabla drums. It is a more instrumental reprise of “I Song” but Mathur jams out and even brings in a rap verse. Certainly the best song on the album, it would have been better for Mathur to focus on this vain of his creativity.
Overall the album shows indications of meticulous work and a carefully crafted sound. However if the artist would like to give it a more natural, comfortable feel he should in the future try to break out of musical conventions and prescriptions, such as singing the hook or chorus at the immediate start of every song.
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