Slank can pretty much get away with anything. It is one of Indonesia’s biggest bands in terms of popularity and sales, and its legions of supremely dedicated fans, known as Slankers, have created a subculture of their own.
Slankers buy, wear, love and live anything the band puts out. Like devoted sport fans whose admiration borders on the fanatical, Slankers have gone through a lot during the band’s 28-year career, from the drug years, to sobriety, to the fallout that divided Slank into two camps, to the band’s voyage to foreign lands to tour and record. Every moment has been noted, debated, admired and entered into the band’s canon.
Which is why Slank’s latest offering seems like another sure-fire best seller.
“Party” is a collection of Slank’s hits, remixed into house music oblivion by some of Indonesia’s most popular DJs. If Slank’s pop-rock roots seem to sit uncomfortably with the glitzy lights of dance clubs, consider how often local house music enthusiasts decry the lack of artistry on the dance floor.
Certainly, Slank’s elementary mix of insipid, yet catchy bar-rock and bluesy ballads is a perfect for the concept thrown out by “Party.” But what could at least have been an immaculate pairing of two commercially viable musical styles never comes close to inspiring any amount of hedonistic rump-shaking.
The electronica here rids the album of anything that can remotely be considered pretentious — but not to its benefit. Beats are as paltry as can be, and run in the same mid-tempo dirge, draining the songs of the oomph even the lamest of house music tracks usually contain.
Slank’s flag-waving melodies get buried inside automated thumps instead of leading the remixes’ dynamics. Any prowess the original tracks demonstrated is nowhere to be felt between layers of indistinguishable synthesizer lines. The remixes feel hasty, without much consideration for how to capture the thing that made tracks such as the folksy “Orkes Sakit Hati” or the blues-infused “Pulau Biru” such monster hits.
When the melodies get buried, the lyrics — a big part of the band’s mass appeal — get buried along with them. On DJ Abow Djail’s remix of one of the country’s biggest hits of the ’90s, “Bang Bang Tut,” the rockers’ sense of immediacy gets bogged down in beats that never truly mesh with the original track. The beats essentially stay the same throughout, regardless of the song’s arrangement. Verses get the same treatment as choruses, ultimately giving a sense of endless monotone.
DJ Telly Alvaro’s take on “Ku Tak Bisa” opens with the same house beat we’ve heard in myriad tracks before, and dives further into an aurally foggy version of the melancholy pop song. While the electronic percussion’s repetitive nature comes with the club-esque territory, it barely leaves room for the original track, which struggles to be noticed underneath the increasingly vexatious thumps.
One of Slank’s biggest songs — and that’s saying a lot considering the number of hits the band has churned out — is “Balikkin,” a track whose melodies became ingrained in the minds of many Indonesians in the late ’90s. Unfortunately, instead of standing out from the rest, the track’s remix suffers under sludgy beats that hardly encapsulate the folksy track’s simplicity.
DJ Lotus Nadeak’s version of “Virus” at least takes that monotone and turns it into a semi-hypnotic rave track that unwinds in a less mundane manner. Stripping most of the song away and focusing on the track’s signature slide guitar, the remix’s minimalist approach is to its benefit, and is the classiest of the bunch, though that’s not saying much.
Slank’s “Party” is an album produced to move units and nothing more. But even the most committed Slanker would find digging through the pile of slapped-together tracks a far lesser experience than simply putting on an old Slank cassette.
In this era of mass appeal, trashy commercial music, the bland clanks of “Party” could have sold millions. But alas Slank will have to settle for mere hundreds of thousands.