THAILAND: Human - Potato
Hard rock mixed with ballads and experimental flourishes, Potato manage to put their own spin on the rock genre
Despite the fact that I do like this band I like this album very much, we must address the elephant in the room, which is the fact that Potato is the worst name for a band I think I’ve ever heard in my life. It completely fails to get across just how vital and exciting they actually are. It is true that some of the greatest bands of all time have had slightly rubbish names in isolation – The Who is only a good name because The Who are brilliant, and similarly, the pun at the heart of the word ‘Beatles’ is ignored due to the fact that everything else about that band is superlative – but Potato really is rubbish. It evokes nothing, aside from an edible member of the nightshade family, but I will say that maybe in Thailand it has more of a resonance, I don't know. However, it is therefore good that the band themselves have so much to offer that the name becomes an irrelevance. Potato are one of Thailand’s most famous and influential rock bands, and it is easy to see why. Proving themselves to be as adept at hard rock as they are at ballads, they seem completely at home in the rock genre, sounding fully authentic, which in some ways is surprising.
“The guitars are cutting and sharp, with that gut-punch I like from heavy rock music, but equally never losing sight of melody and musicality.”
The band was brought together in what we might consider to be a ‘manufactured’ manner, as the original band members all starred in a Coca Cola advert, and a music producer who happened to see it thought they would be good as an actual band. While manufactured rock bands such as The Monkees often garner scorn, it appears to have paid off in spades for Potato. You would never guess that the band never knew each other before a chance meeting on an ad shoot, they sound like they’ve known each other since their teenage years, writing songs in their bedrooms. To be fair, by the time Human was released, they had known each other for ten years, and there might be more natural rapport evident on this album than perhaps in their first album. Whatever the case, their authenticity shines through.
One of the best expressions of their talent is on the second track, which translates as Enough. It starts off in a jazzy, experimental manner, using ambient background noise, before doing a complete 180 and belting out a hard rock number that’s just on the right side of heavy metal for my taste. The guitars are cutting and sharp, with that gut-punch I like from heavy rock music, but equally never losing sight of melody and musicality. Patchai Pukdesusook’s excellent vocals remain easy to listen to, adapting his intensity for the softer portions of the song as well. Another song that shows off their skill is the title track, again starting off softly, before sliding into a grunge-inspired number that is reminiscent of later Pearl Jam or the Foo Fighters. Often when they mix their two modes they end up being most successful, as Pukdesusook’s vocals are able to navigate those tricky waters. I also love the trickles of experimentalism, whether it’s the funk inspired opening of the first song, the ambient jazz start to the second song, or the echoes of space age rock of the seventh track, it always adds something to the whole piece.
If I were to criticise slightly, some of the softer ballads veer towards the cheesy side of things, and I find they are generally better as rockers than balladeers, but equally this could be my personal preference towards rock songs over ballads. Nonetheless, none of the songs are bad, in my opinion, even if the album loses some steam in the middle section. The first four and final three songs are all fantastic, with much enjoyment to be had. We have seen some very high-quality Asian rock music over this process, whether it’s Chinese glam metal band Hei Bao, or Burmese heavy metal star Lay Phyu, and Potato just about make it into the pantheon along with them. I don’t think they have songs quite as memorable as either of those two musicians, but what they lack in catchy tunes, they make up for in consistency and a willingness to try new things with their music. This album is more inventive than either of those two, and that makes it stand out from a strong crowd. Thus, while you may not finish listening to Human humming the tunes (though I wouldn’t rule it out) you will at least come away from the experience having appreciated the talent on offer in the Thai rock scene.