• Thu, Apr 18, 2024

Workshop - Made Love to the Dragon


album Reviews Mar 05, 03:44pm

A review of Made Love to the Dragon by Akhil Sood.


For whatever reason, I’m personally insulted that there exists an album called Made Love to the Dragon by a band called Workshop. I was under the (naively constructed) impression that irony in art was meant to be used as a tool to register some kind of impact and to somehow change things, to somehow improve the dreary situation around us that anyone with half a brain would no doubt notice. Instead, we get unself-aware and feckless ponderings about clichéd haunted houses, loser male stereotypes, arranged marriages, and dragons or whatever. Well, Workshop is a “comedy” rock band but the joke is most definitely on me.

Let’s talk about the “comedy” – the “humour” – that forms the basis of this innately regressive record: It’s juvenile, infantile, and flippant. I get that it’s meant to be immature and unsophisticated, and that it’s supposed to elicit cheap, guilty laughs. But, essentially, it’s dull and distinctly unfunny and lackluster. It’s insulting to a listener because it’s presumably functioning under the false premise that we’re all morons who form the critical mass of listenership right at the bottom of the barrel – that we’ll laugh at any adolescent tripe we’re force-fed in the name of humour.

But the one thing I find most exasperating is the aggressive alpha male hard-line undertones that propel the narrative of the record. Sure, the intention is to use crude humour to ironically mock cultural values which place women in the lowest rung of society (even below alleged Workshop fans), among other sociological issues, and I’m in no way accusing the band members or lyricists of being hostile sexists and male imperialists in any way. But then, far too often for my liking, the lines get blurred – the borderline male-fantasy-wish-fulfillment elements end up taking precedence over the no doubt noble message that the band’s probably maybe perhaps possibly trying to convey. And their attempts at being campy ironists fall flat.

So there’s ‘Naagin ki Nazar’, a song that’s practically an ode to a penis (The snake with one eye = penis; get it?); the ridiculously cheesy and outdated ‘She Came’, about arranged marriage, hairy men, and a woman who seeks pleasure and gets it or something, and many more pearls littered through the course of the album. And the less said about the odd attempt at social messages, as on ‘Down to Dahisar’, which talks about the difficulties of getting an apartment in Bombay thanks to social and racial inequalities, the better.

I really thought we were past this. Rock ‘n’ roll has traditionally had very depraved, often misogynistic tendencies, but in the past couple of decades or so, I thought we’d moved to a world where sensitivity and notions of equality and balance were also admirable traits in this subversive subculture of music – I thought the thoughtful, feminist rock stars had made dents in the glorious dick-waving consciousness of previous years, from R.E.M. to Sonic Youth to Riot Grrrl bands to Nirvana to Radiohead to Fiona Apple to Tool and countless others. Meh.

Instead, with Made Love to the Dragon, we have an unwitting and, most likely, an unintentional return to those terribly stunted values of ignorant cock-rock. (Again, I need to stress that the musicians in Workshop are – I don’t think – striving toward those values, and it’s just misguided enthusiasm and poor execution of ideas that make me come to these conclusions. Ultimately, this is a judgement of the product and not the creators.)

What ends up making things much worse is the nature of the music itself. It’s painfully half-baked, redundant, and lacks any of the songwriting skills that the band members have showcased in their other bands. It’s a predictable, derivative crackpot of complete nonsense, right from the banal power metal of the title track to the self-referential parodic ‘Bunty aur Babli (Habibi Mix)’. Oh, and the guitar solos – further attestation of those depressing alpha-male-posturing rock ‘n’ roll values. When Workshop are not busy with crass attempts at toilet humour, they’re basically gearing up for or midway through an indulgent guitar-exercise guitar solo. It’s almost like each song has been carefully crafted keeping in mind naïve college boys who’ll laugh at asinine penis jokes, exaggerated Indian accents, and choruses which insist on repeating the word ‘horny’ many times; they’ll gladly applaud decadent and obsolete guitar wankery and share ‘She Came’ ringtones on their mobile phones, all because they know no better.

At the end of the day, while I can most definitely try to understand what the creators are trying desperately to achieve and I don’t exactly doubt their well-meaning objectives through Workshop and Made Love to the Dragon, I do also think the album has failed miserably. It has adopted those cheap tricks that’ll sell, sure, but eventually, it offers no sense or hope for redemption. And the songs are not even funny. Really, what’s the point then?

Made Love to the Dragon is available for streaming at workshopindia.bandcamp.com

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