Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, has an essay about the Beatles in which he describes the tricky revelations in their music--the "impossible harmonies and part playing you had never heard in pop songs before." Adams's conclusion is that the Beatles weren't trying to impress anybody; they were "obviously just putting all this stuff in for some secret fun of their own."
Listening to "Tentang Cita," by the six-piece Indonesian band White Shoes & The Couples Company, it's likewise easy to get the sense that someone's secret desire to play sophisticated, challenging music is being satisfied. (My main suspect? Ricky Virgana, the group's bass player. Just listen to those restless, funk-dizzy scales.) "Tentang Cita" is a breezy pop confection, but it's also a six-way display of chops for anyone who happens to be paying attention.
The song is from White Shoes' self-titled debut album, which came out in 2005 (and was released on an American label in 2007). For me, part of the charm of "Tentang Cita" comes from the way it sounds totally unconcerned with anything else happening in pop at that moment. The Beatles actually aren't a bad reference point--you can hear sunny '60s psychedelia on this tune, as well as '70s AM radio rock and a style of electric jazz that I associate with film soundtracks. What you can't hear is much obvious influence from, say, Timbaland, or Gang of Four, or any of the other artists who hovered, Ben Kenobi-like, over most of the songs that got most of the buzz in the middle part of the decade.
Maybe, as an American, I'm limited by my perspective; maybe in Jakarta, White Shoes' music is totally of-the-moment. Maybe. But to my ears, it's a welcome transmission from outside the bubble, a reminder that the pop world is always bigger and more colorful than you think.
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