I always do that. I see a cover, in this case, one with hints of Instagram filters and Day-Glo colours and I jump to all the wrong conclusions. You would have thought that I had learned my lesson when it comes to immediately judge books by their covers a long time ago. Because what jumps out of the speaker when the virtual needle hits the digital record is nothing like what the cover might suggest.
Mc Flurry Blues echoes with all sorts of cool references, especially the fledgeling UK indie scene of the mid-eighties. From the nod to the Stone Roses in those iconic opening beats to its ragged Brit-Pop guitars, it is at once nostalgic, certainly for people like me who were there the first time around, whilst being something totally in tune with today’s underground rock sound. And that is a neat trick if you can pull it off.
And pull it off he does. But get past the opening triptych of high octane indie rock anthems and Pandu Hutomo starts revealing another side to his music. Rogue Everything is a blend of spacious backbeats and squalling and crashing guitar chords over which he delivers ballad-like vocals and Conservative Dear sees him wielding an acoustic guitar to create a cool slice of indie-folk.
Miss Stewardess seems to sit in the middle of the sounds that he has now marked out as being the extremes of his sonic palette. Gentle and slow-burning, it grows from a very understated opening stance, adds increasingly weighty guitars and occasional tumbling drums to build into something both anthemic yet poised, cleverly structured and brimming with ever-changing energy and dynamic. And then there are songs like The Factory (Sheffield Grifter’s Blues) which almost fall into the dream-pop category. You can’t say that this album doesn’t cover plenty of sonic bases. Well, you could but you’d be wrong.
And it is a very literary and poetic album too. The lyrics weave a narrative of love, loss, longing and life, as the album title suggests, and even the individual track titles show Hutomo to have a way with words, from the pop culture meets the traditional musical parlance of the aforementioned opener, McFlurry Blues, to punning Hopeful Romantics, a song which plays out as a wonderfully minimalist but heartfelt duet with Ayunda Nurvi.
And despite the references that I found in the music, they may say more about me than Pandu Hutomo, as there is far more to be found here that is original and forward-thinking than those backward glancing names I have dropped. But I’m sure the balance of the two will help broaden its appeal to both modern pop-pickers and ageing indie kids alike. Shrewd planning or a happy accident? It doesn’t really matter which.
What matters is that Wasted Hearts: A Love Story for the (Loveless) Ages is a great album, and a surprising one too. It blends indie cool with pop infectiousness and delicate understatement with rock and roll excess. It is lyrically astute and the musical construction and sonic craftsmanship seem to hark back to an earlier, more classic age. If there is any justice in the world these songs should be on everyone’s lips, every radio playlist and in everybody’s record collections. Why not start the ball rolling right now?