Chennai indie favorites The F16s have had many twists and turns with their records, always returning something to keep people dancing. Between their mercurial debut album Triggerpunkte and the moody WKND FRNDS EP (and not to forget the explosive first EP Kaleidoscope), The F16s’ newest record Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? almost doesn’t even make sense to compare, because there’s clearly been a lot of toil and hard-gained evolution on this one.
There’s always been a sense of jadedness and irony with The F16s, frontman Josh Fernandez even carrying it over into his project JBabe. And who can blame them? With the constant work put in to becoming a (somewhat) successful band from Chennai, The F16s did a have a chaotic international tour (where they were stuck after a few shows in South East Asia) and faced the all-pervading pandemic, making sustenance difficult, like most independent artists.
They emerge from this haze with their crooked, wry smiles still beaming and certainly sound a hell of a lot cooler on Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? The title might exude serious left-liberal millennial meme energy, but the EP is only occasionally political. Like on ‘Easy Bake Easy Wake’, Fernandez compares his shiny sense of self-loathing to a relationship and sings, “She fucked me like the government, and played me like a violin, violence.” Elsewhere, they somehow wind up pleading for alien abduction on ‘Sucks to Be Human,’ appropriately drawing together spacey synth work from Harshan Radhakrishnan and springing guitar work from Abhinav Krishnaswamy.
With Prabhu Muraleedharan helming duties behind the drum kit with bassist Sashank Manohar, The F16s hone in on a jovial, summery sound that’s half escapist and half grounded in harsh realities. The immediate earworm and dancefloor-ready opener ‘I’m on Holiday’ captures all the makings of a typically bright F16s song, as Fernandez lays out a doomed love story. Fist-tight rhythms populate the very current sound on ‘Trouble in Paradise,’ powered by razor-edged riffs and a spectacular horn section from Rohit Gupta (from Peter Cat Recording Co.)
It’s so celebratory in its nature but just a slightly deeper look into the lyrics give us an entirely different perspective. A pleasant melody is the band’s playground for ‘The Apocalypse,’ which has nods to Gorillaz and (of course) Tame Impala, as Fernandez talks about a city under siege. Gupta’s horn section adds just the right subtle touch as the song closes out in a most unexpected way.
It makes Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? feel like one of those comforting yet unpolished summations of modern existence, which is likely The F16s’ goal all along. They’re going for that dead-inside-party-outside persona, which few can perfect like them.
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