Koleksi Dendangan Untuk Masa Hadapan is a post-GE14 reflection with spunk that also signifies a milestone in Spooky Wet Dreams.
Protest albums, or political ones, are double edged swords in the history of modern music. They’re understandably divisive, unless they’re sufficiently vague (like Michael Jackson trying to unite the world with Heal the World or Black and White) or just so emotionally timely that it becomes detached from the original context: Bob Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind stop being too closely associated with the Vietnam War, The Cranberries Zombies detached from the horrors of the 1993 IRA bombing.
Regardless of their longevity – political music always serves a purpose of perspective, archived through the lense of the individual, the community; the majority or the minority.
And in a 2018 Malaysia, where so much has changed (yet so much has stayed the same), Koleksi Dendangan Untuk Masa Hadapan is an important addition to the punk rock archive.
Conceptually brought to life by the direction of lead singer Ze, and visualised by the collective Kekabumi, you’re immediately enthralled by the sepia Malaysiana captured through the album art and the overtone of the album – punctuated by the band’s first complete foray into writing Malay songs. The perspective drawn by the track listing is that of a disillusioned man waking up from a deep slumber, commencing his day with trepidation, trying to start a revolution from his bed (Malam Sebelum Revolusi). But the individual, like all of us, occasionally falls in love (Sayang, Tolong Buatkan Abang), thinks about putting food on the table (Sarapan) before finally exploding into riotous, righteous anger (Irama Propaganda).
As “a collection of songs for the future”, the narrative journey of the album is satisfying. Songwriting-wise, the album captures the mundane and the introspective really well, reminding us that the people questioning institutions are essentially just human beings trying to survive. From poignant lyricism, to angry diatribes.
The next most blatant thing about Spooky Wet Dreams latest album is the breadth of their sound. They’ve punched themselves out of the indie/pop punk box and strive for more haziness. With an expanded lineup and a different approach to production, you’ll find elements of the blues, joget, pop ye-ye and surf-rock spread out across the tracks smattered with punk rock ethos. There’s a lot to keep you fueled, with the buildup in songs like Merdekakah, and the chaotic sonic smorgasbord driven by an umph-filled bass line in Irama Propaganda. Besides the two singles, Perdana is a spicy cut of mainstream media critique that is a pop-punk, butt-kicker punctuated by the lead singer’s growl. Elephant In the Room is the surf-rock anti-racism, anti-establishment anthem I never knew I needed revitalising a more Ramones-esque vibe to punk that exudes delicious
That being said, there’s some minor misses in the album that I feel like has more to do with energy and vocal styles rather than instrumentation or production. The lead singer’s listlessness is an interesting aspect of this album, mostly because it’s very inconsistent, found most prominently in the song Virgin .There’s a Justin Young of the Vaccines-like direction that he goes for that leaves a lot for wanting. Compositionally, every song has a high note, but Ze’s projection in the album falls a bit short of perfect when it comes to the more waltzy, slower, songs. Sometimes there is a kind of ironic laziness to appreciate in that singing, but honestly the song Virgin would be better if there was a starker emotional climax that didn’t saunter through so much lethargy in the first half. It’s a wonderful song subtly laced with adolescent anxiety, but feels very nondescript because of the delivery.
A good comparison to be made is in Sarapan (which is one of my favourites maybe because it plays too similarly to Peterpan’s Mungkin Nanti rhythmically. Not a plus or a minus point. Just invoked a lot of nostalgia), where Ze’s vocal register feels more candid in delivery, or when there is a clearer caricature for each vocal style in songs like Irama Propaganda.
Conceptually, Koleksi Dendangan is a memorable album, and surely deserves to find its place somewhere in the collective psyche of Malaysian indie music lovers in 2018. However, in Spooky Wet Dream’s attempt to diversify their sound, some unfortunate dilution occurred. Personally, it feels like there were many more interesting musical choices to be made to make songs hit beyond just their contextual delivery, but also in riff progressions, or just harder explosions.
All of that seem to be most contained in the track Irama Propaganda, truly a great opus of 2018, where other tracks seems to slightly miss the mark. Irama Propanda feels the least restrained, the most exciting, and also pretty freaking anthemic. I’ve never felt so much angry discomfort while singing lyrics like Kau jolok dari belakang since the last time I sang Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue by the Ramones. It’s electrifying (the singing, not the glue)
Although, Cold Pizza Party was just their EP, and with a slightly different band lineup, overall there were more exciting cuts in there than in Koleksi Dendangan. Spooky Wet Dreams have probably always tried to distance themselves from the mold of pop punk that some people have ascribed to them for a long time, but sometimes, I can’t help but miss the personality and energy they packed a lot more back then. It’s hard not to wonder if maybe that vibe serves a better medium for their protestations, or that there’s a lot more room to expand their musical experimentation.
Although the criticism borders on petty, this is the only Malaysian album or musical project that attempted to capture that post-GE14 feeling with so much range and colour, sticking groove and punk in the same handbook, and that in itself deserves a page in some small history zine (at the very least). In a country, where it’s hard for political music to gain any traction to due to institutional censorship or just the chilling effect of future condemnation, Koleksi Dendangan Untuk Masa Hadapan beckons a great first step.
4 / 5