Thermal and a Quarter, or TAAQ, is a three-piece band from Bangalore, comprising Bruce Lee Mani on vocals and guitar, Rajeev Rajagopal on drums and Prakash K N on bass. With brilliant solos, plenty of improvisation and a sound that amalgamates rock with jazz and the blues, the band has always been a treat to hear at live gigs.
This time, the band takes the risk of releasing a three-CD set, which includes two CDs of new songs and one containing singles created between 2010 and 2012. That makes it 28 songs in all, a gutsy thing to do at a time when people are not going in for more than 10 or 12 songs at a time. The negative side to this is that it also requires a bit of patience to listen to each single CD at a stretch, especially when some songs or five or six minutes long.
The title ‘3 Wheels 9 Lives’ is dedicated to Bangalore’s autorickshaw (public three-wheeler) drivers, and the second song Metre Mele One-and-a-Half actually talks of how they always charge one and a half times the fare. In fact, one finds a few references to Bangalore, like in the song Bangalore Flower, which has the lines: She’s a flower, a Bangalore flower, she’s got me in the zone.” The highlight of the album is Mani’s consistent guitaring, and one hears some fabulous work on the numbers Surrender, De-arranged and Origami. Other winners are Terrible Trouble, with its infectious hook, the peppy If Them Blues and For The Cat, dedicated to singer Cat Stevens (check the lines, “A quiet calm in a wild world”).
On initial hearing, one may sense a certain sameness on many songs. But for variety, we have Sad Moon, which has vocals by the talented Priya Mendens, the instrumental ‘Ho-hum’ and the well-produced Birthday, which has a slight Beatles influence.
The bonus tracks include popular numbers like Something You Said and Kickbackistan, but the real treats come from the live versions of Mighty Strange, with its tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and keyboards, and One Small Love, which has amazing Carnatic flute by Ravi Kulur. Though the sheer length may irk some, the truth is that the songs grow on regular listening. TAAQ has been around since 1996, releasing four albums before. ‘3 Wheels 9 Lives’ is one of their obvious career highlights.
Reviewed By Narendra Kusnur
Narendra Kusnur has been in the field of journalism for over 30 years and has been a music columnist with Mid Day publication for 10 years. He has also worked with EMI Virgin as a label manager and later with Reliance Retail as a Chief Manager. He presently is a freelance journalist and writes for Mid – Day (Mumbai) and The Hindu (Mumbai edition).