Jakarta-based band Monkey to Millionaire rose to moderate indie fame with its 2009 debut “Lantai Merah” (“Red Floor”), a thumping melodic rocker record that quickly found an audience within the hipster crowd.
With the record’s fully formed template and sound, the band now returns with a sophomore release that offers much of the same — in a good way.
“Inertia” is a charming follow-up, filled with instantly memorable hooks reminiscent of the lighter side of ’90s alternative rock. What initially comes off as a darker album reveals itself to be as equally grey as its predecessor; there is plenty of retrospection, however there is still room for unadulterated pedal stomping.
There are traces of grunge music, namely Nirvana’s driving rhythms of the instrumentations, but the bulk of “Inertia” harkens to sometimes unfairly maligned, dust-bin fillers of the era such as China Drum, Paw, Superdrag, Shihad, and For Squirrels. The clanking distortion also owes plenty to Green Day’s 1995 record “Insomniac.”
“Humiliation” is a powerful opener, kicking the gates wide open with jumpy percussions and crunchy power chords. Like many of the songs on the album, this track sprinkles itself with looping vocal lines that work to its advantage.
Vocalist and guitarist Wisnu Brahmana’s yelps of “The more it hides, the more it shows” sound positively Cobain-esque — equally commanding, but less tortured.
The aquatic post-grunge of “Sepi Melaju” (“Quietly Driven”) hisses with fuzzed-out guitars and a fluid bassline, while Wisnu again offers his best-pained throatiness. Alongside “Humiliation,” the two tracks are perfect openers, confirming the emotional veracity and sonic drive of the record effectively.
“Senja Membunuh” (“Twilight Kills”) harkens back to the band’s pop tendencies with its Weezer-like chorality, as does stand out power pop track “Summer Rain.” The two tracks show a band that has built its confidence through extensive touring — sounding vigorous and direct without distracting bells and whistles.
Older fans might find themselves initially disappointed with the lack of similar pop-vein tracks, but the record’s crunchier production serves a deeper purpose in burying the instantaneous nature of Wisnu’s melodies, giving their discovery a dig-for-gold feel.
As a result, “Inertia” feels much stronger as a whole and as a repeat experience. Tracks like the garage grunge of “M.A.N.” and “Anoreksi” reveal themselves patiently beneath pulsating arrangements and staccato rhythms.
“Inertia” is about as good a follow-up record as Monkey to Millionaire could make. Some will feel disappointed with its similarity to “Lantai Merah,” but the songs are undeniable outside of that context.
There is likely nothing here that you haven’t heard a million times before — heavy songs and sing-along melodies.
But what Monkey to Millionaire lacks in diversity, it makes up for with unswerving vigor. Add to that the plain fact that there is a serious drought of solid local records, and “Inertia” is a must-have for music fans here.
From Monkey to Millionaire
Released by Demajors
Available in record stores