.Feast – ‘Abdi Lara Insani’ review: Stadium rock with a political narrative that leaves you wanting more

The Indonesian band’s new mini album about an activist-turned-politician brings the fist-pumping rock goods – and shows it’s time for them to step up the storytelling

Though they shared their debut single in 2014, .Feast broke through three years later with ‘Wives of ゴジラ/Gojira (We Belong Dead)’, a hearts-on-fire blues rock song with every element that would make the Jakarta rock band a crowd favourite.

There’s the layered protest-march vocal approach; the Sunset Strip glam-rock blues riffs mixed with the ’90s stoner rock crunch of bands like Corrosion of Conformity and Fu Manchu; the oratory speak-sing style of vocalist Baskara Putra; and most significantly, the narrative-based lyricism that offers emotive declarations perfect for mass singalongs.

Those elements all go at full throttle on 2022 mini-album ‘Abdi Lara Insani’, but with crisp production and loud-but-dynamic mastering. All the better for these songs that are extroverted in both instrumental and vocal delivery, nearly all of them filled with immediate hooks. With their lavish strings and tight galloping rhythms, standouts ‘Gugatan Rakyat Semesta’ (‘Universal People’s Lawsuit’) and ‘Jaya’ (Victor) mix the dramatic ambience of Sigur Rós with Muse’s arena rock.

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‘Ali’ is electro stoner-grunge that hews closest to the band’s characteristic sound, but brims with unexpected melodic turns, while the overdriven ‘Senin Toko Tutup’ (‘On Mondays, The Store is Closed’) combines the grimy crunch of early Queens of the Stone Age with psychedelic lead guitars.

What has also made .Feast resonate with the quasi-academic festival-filling crowd over the years is their socio-political approach to storytelling (showcased on their albums 2017’s ‘Multiverses’ and 2020’s ‘Uang Muka’). ‘Abdi Lara Insani’ follows suit with a fictional narrative of Ali, an activist who, once attaining a position of power, turned into the kind of megalomaniacal politician he once fought against.

As a band who met as Social and Political Science students at the University of Indonesia, .Feast have the resumes to back up their thematic explorations, and Ali’s narrative is comparable to the hero-to-villain trajectory of many changemakers-turned-politicians (in Indonesia and elsewhere) who were swallowed whole by the system.

In essence, ‘Abdi Lara Insani’ condemns corrupt politicians (or “God men”, as Baskara puts it in Indonesian on the song ‘Ali’) and performative idealists. But aside from their Benz-riding kids and systemic sycophants, does anyone actually profess to like corrupt politicians? This record seems to leave a deeper, more difficult conversation about Indonesia’s socio-political abyss in the corner – a discussion that the band are certainly capable of initiating.

There are compelling moments when .Feast break away from the narrative, when Baskara drops the metaphors and delivers direct proclamations that seethe with the passion and weariness of activists fighting what must feel like unwinnable battles.

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‘Kuping Ini Makin Lalai’ (‘My Ears Are Becoming Negligent’) expresses Ali’s desire to keep his ear to the ground and retain his empathy for the marginalised, while on ‘Jaya’ (Victory) the increasingly weary protagonist wonders if he can keep the dream alive for his fellow countrymen. He sings: “Am I fast enough to get us running? / Smart enough to get us to the moon? / Am I brave enough to ask us to stand up? / Am I confident enough in myself?” These simple, earnest lines, along with the song’s patient build, makes it a standout in the album.

Musically, ‘Abdi Lara Insani’ is the band’s most well-rounded release so far. .Feast are clearly aiming for the stadiums and they have all the goods for it. With their fanbase and career secure, it’s time their storytelling dares to ruffle some more feathers.

Details

Feast album cover for Abdi Lara Insani
  • Release date: April 22
  • Record label: Sun Eater
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