There are trends and dominant narratives in any music scene. In terms of the Korean indie rock scene, metal, and modern rock make up giant branches, as well as punk, all finding ways to localize themselves in one way or another. Drummer John Apache distances himself from this trend, as he did while he played for the band Bamshinsa. His self-titled album is a nod at the origins of analogue rock from Britain and the U.S.
From the onset of the album, “Mole Race” jumps straight out of the 90s. The recording of the drums and guitars feel rough around the edges, but intentionally so, with amp distortions still left in the mix.
“ROCK IDIOT” continues this roughness, mic distortions and metallic toms giving off the impression of a live performance. The psychedelic guitar effectors benefit from this feeling, giving them more authenticity than a studio-generated soundscape.
“Invitation” is highly reminiscent of British bands like The Verve or Radiohead, especially with its woodwinds, but also ties itself to Korea through its similarity with the music of shoegaze talents like Shin Hae Gyeong. The slightly out of tune guitar solo at the end is a cliché in terms of the composition, but the bluesy execution is perfect.
“Odd Friend” feels as if Thom Yorke had sung a Jet song. The percussions are interesting in this track, shifting suddenly into tribal and bossa nova rhythms. Combined with the organs in the background and analog guitar distortions, this song presents an “odd” soundscape.
“You Are Mine” represents John Apache’s style despite being bluesy with less straightforward energy, with absolutely no frills. The drum licks, bassline, and organs all stick to the bare bones, with the guitar and vocals doing most of the storytelling. The feeling of listening to a live performance persists, amplifying the pleasure from the final guitar solo.
“Song of the Moon” contains the essence of punk. This lends to some boredom from the unchanging drums and bassline, but the tone of the guitar and its solo demands attention. The next track “Yalgae Story” is without doubt an Oasis tribute, sprinkling a little bit of Guns N’ Roses-esque guitar riffs here and there.
The other odd track of this album is “Aftermath,” which feels the closest to home in terms of the composition. The melody might have been written by bands like Okdal, while the metallic guitar tone cuts across everything. Sometimes the sound does not even seem to be coming from the guitar, but this intense sharpness mixes well with the warm Rhodes piano for a uniquely psychedelic sound.
The feeling does not last, however, as “Hometown Blues” brings in a splash of country. It is the metallic tone of the rhythm guitar in the background that grounds the song within the boundaries of this album.
The final track “Cold Hand” brings the album back to familiar territory, one claimed by the likes of Parasol and Seoul Electric Band. This presents a conundrum for John Apache’s identity. Trying to do what has not been done in the scene leads to obvious references to western rock, while coming back to the local scene he likewise encounters bands that have already mastered the areas he is treading.
In this sense, John Apache is more a gravestone than anything, a tribute to indie rock that is increasingly becoming less relevant in light of how far Korean bands have come from copying western traditions.