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The Art of Growing Old

The Bangkok-based concept band drives home truths about ageing, mortality and life at large on their debut studio record

"Attending an unplanned party/ Never ready, didn't really wanna come/ Saying 'hello' to acquaintances/ Gotta be careful not to smile too much/ It just wouldn't be appropriate," without knowing the track's title, the opening verse of The Charapaabs' debut single, Sala Kon Sao (Funeral Party), reads like something of a typical introvert's diary. As the second verse arrives, it becomes clear that the aforementioned "party" is actually a funeral where "the host refrains from making an appearance" (worth noting a clever wordplay here -- ook long, literally "out of coffin", is used instead of ook rong, which is a Thai expression meaning to make an appearance).

As a concept band, The Charapaabs ("senility" in Thai) have since day one nailed it on the head with the geriatric theme that's convincing enough to fool a lot of people. Having never appeared in any of their music videos either, the 30-something five-piece would have easily passed off as a legitimate elderly band in the same vein as Bennetty. It is a marketing gimmick, of course, but the execution of it is so flawlessly carried out, not to mention the music itself which is as fresh as it is thought-provoking.

Drawing from post-punk, new-wave and surf-rock influences, their full-length debut album, Maha Moradok, features age-appropriate guest vocalists including R-Bu (some of you might have seen him covering pop ballads on his popular Facebook page 'R-bu acoustic ballads') and director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's mother Sunisa Thamrongrattanarit -- the former appearing on the post-punk Funeral Party and the latter on the propulsive Hello Monday.

The band also relies on narrators who bring to life stellar tracks like Annual Check-Up, Alzheimer's, and epic, near-eight-minute closer Geronticity which sees postmodern guru Thanes Wongyannava reciting a poem that delves deep into things like AI, big data as well as Buddhist philosophy. Elsewhere, there's an homage to the late King of Rock and Roll (Elvis Never Left The Building) and a Tu Direk-guested ode to tooth loss (Tooth And Truth).

Quotable lyrics: "Sour, salty, sweet or bitter/ Can't taste all the flavours we once could/ Gotta grin and bear it/ It's inevitable for all of us" (Tooth And Truth).
The verdict: With this sonically and lyrically cohesive 10-track collection, The Charapaabs have well proven that they're more than just a novelty band. Listen to this: Funeral Party, Annual Check-Up, Alzheimer's, Hello Monday, Long Weekend.


THE PLAYLIST

Androgenius / Alone On BTS (Remaster 01)

Homegrown newcomers Androgenius (not to be confused with the South African jazz-hip-hop outfit who go by the same name) describe themselves as an "experimental psychedelic sex grunge rock band from Cocoon Records" (also not to be confused with the Sven Väth-founded, Frankfurt-based Cocoon Recordings). Judging from their genre-blurring debut single, Alone On BTS (Remaster 01), they've pretty much nailed it with that description and then some. The band, consisted of vocalist/guitarist Lita Phuphat, guitarist Sirapob Chanapai, keyboardist Patinya Chuprasert, bassist Peeranat Akavaphat and drummer Atsanee Sangkaew, offers up a daring hodgepodge of plucked guitars, offbeat percussion and a whole lot of vocal reverb. On paper, this shouldn't have worked but somehow it does, thanks to the subtle loose jazz feel that ties the seemingly incongruous elements together. Remember their name, because these guys are going places.

Tourist / Emily

London-based songwriter/musician William Phillips, aka Tourist, has been gearing up for his sophomore effort, Everyday, since last year with lead up singles Apollo and Someone Else. The third cut from his new album arrives today in the form of Emily, a mid-tempo offering that takes cues from chillwave and dreampop. The song begins with a vocal excerpt and faint background drums, giving way to glowing synth melodies and ethereal vocal loops. It's a wistful piece of music that makes for a perfect sundown soundtrack. Billed as a "reflection on family, mental health, love and loss", Everyday is due out later next week.

Chaka Khan / Hello Happiness

After teasing us with the funk-inflected Like Sugar last year, legendary soul diva/musical treasure Chaka Khan continues to ramp up the anticipation for her upcoming 12th studio album, Hello Happiness, with its title track. And like many of its predecessors, the song glistens with exuberant disco joyousness. "Music makes me sing/ Goodbye sadness/ Hello happiness," she repeats in the chorus until it becomes nothing short of a life-affirming mantra. And when she sings "If you're feelin' unsure/ I've got your cure/ This music is yours/ And this beat is mine," you'd better believe she's hell-bent on taking you to church.

Slowthai, Mura Masa / Doorman

UK grime sensation Slowthai (he's not Thai, by the way) joins forces with electronic producer Mura Masa on Doorman, a standalone single that sums up his vital brand of punk-rap hybrid. Set to propulsive guitars, the track tells the story of a night out where he's reminded of the widening gap between the well-off and the rest of us. "Doorman, let me in the door/ Spent all my money, you ain't getting no more," he speeds through the second verse with the raw urgency of punk combined with the disdain for the rich. If you're partial to bands like Young Fathers, this one will go down a treat.

MIKA / Sound Of An Orchestra

MIKA's music has always been suffused with pure pop exuberance (those in need of a reminder, go listen to his early hits like Grace Kelly, Popular Song and Relax, Take It Easy --you'll see why). Even now that he's an established celebrity in Italy thanks to local TV shows like Stasera Casa Mika, the British singer-songwriter still pumps out feel-good jams that exude joy and positivity. Written for his latest series La Compagnia Del Cigno, the playful Sound Of An Orchestra finds him comparing his love to a full orchestra ensemble ("You lower your hand, clarinet will play… When you smile, violins will soar/ When you move your legs, timpani will roar"). Anthemic and life-affirming, this is a classic MIKA through and through.

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