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NIkhil Singh The Wild Eyes

Sci-Fi Soundtrack

by Kavish Chetty, images by Jenna Bass / 27.10.2010

Nikhil Singh’s triumphal return to Cape Town is passively met. At midnight, the margins of the Assembly are spaciously uncramped, the left side of the stage is a chasm of negative space. Singh drags along a persona: that skinny motherfucker, that wily-voiced vocalist; that emblem of emaciated excess. He is always two things at once, perhaps more. His music is sweeping; a kaleidoscope of high and low, synth-pop and noise pop, dark and agile and ghostly. Audiences tend to call him either a ‘genius’ or ‘self-indulgent’, but they approach him like everyone I’ve ever met who likes David Lynch films (except you, Lyle) – gap-toothed and slack-jawed at the enigma of his cinema, they quite enjoyed themselves, they just don’t how or why the fuck they did.

But it becomes immediate to me, two songs into the set on the danceless dancefloor, that the music itself is an artefact of twentieth century social psychosis. Nikhil Singh, the persona, is a loon, a lunatic, a lunar terrestrial transplanted into alien climes. His music is the mirror, and starting back from the stage is the whole chaos and drama of our times: celebrity, self-obsession, monomania, the affirmation that the Anglo-American mass solipsism has been decentralised; now you can taste their junk anywhere you want, now you can be a young, drunk, lusty American too.

The Wild Eyes

I am slurped up into a kind of nausea by this music. It’s a curious, liminal space between appreciation and abhorrence. I wonder if we showed this set to a 1950s hop, to all those rock n’ roll rebels in their blazers, how they would react to this savage and demonic music. It seems like the future described by sci-fi paperbacks of that era. That’s right; this music is a sci-fi soundtrack. Singh plays the Korg, or rather molests it: it squeals and protests, heart-hammeringly plangent. Then he slides a creamy telecaster across his sharp shoulders, plucks at the strings with a black plectrum. Part of the problem with this band is how uneven the music is – at times, I’m just about sucked in, taken up, hypnotised by the surrealism of the image and the sound – but then, the honey inside the riffs drips away and there’s just bad music. It’s why I describe The Wild Eyes as embodying desire itself on stage – desire that exists to reconstitute and reassert itself as desire. You can’t satisfy yourself; you can only be teased.

Spooky Singh, sexy Singh: I don’t know what to make of him. I’ve heard stories of him lurking around Durban’s central business district at midnight, like a vampire aching for blood. The enigma surrounding him, this long-haired Injun, is vast, amorphous, consuming. But his music is a kooky melange that can’t be classed ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It wants an engagement, and it’s up to the modern listener, with so much choice in the world, to decide whether he’s worth it. He sings sometimes in an Elvis impersonation, (doing the B-52s ‘rock lobster’ gimmick); he shouts “Sex-slave!” in a song about imported East Slavic whores shipped over in containers. He flicks his hair back and takes off his thin, leather jacket. And the music continues to pulse; we are trapped in the static of Singh, concert zombies like in Antonioni’s Blowup (only less cool).

The Wild Eyes

The Wild Eyes

The WIld Eyes

*All images © Jenna Bass.

13   7
RESPONSES (59)
  1. yeah says:

    great article. nik is actually fairly boring when you meet him, but i guess careers are forged from enigma and mystery, and he does like to surround himself in that…

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  2. snapper says:

    best gig pics on mahala in a very long time

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  3. Andy says:

    Nikhil Singh is far from boring…

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  4. muerte says:

    This is really great writing.

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  5. ralph sinden says:

    Kavish Chetty obviously has no clue about the wild eyes or how they write their music
    this article focuses strictly on Nikhl singh, if you didnt notice the the wild eyes are a three piece
    band, if youve ever read any interviews or spoken to them you would know all songs
    are written by the band out of a jam process, dont write articles when you dont know what youre talking about Mr Chetty…………………..

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  6. wigga in tha nude pile says:

    For all Kavish’s insightful ruminations on Nikhil’s persona, Ralph is still correct – The Wild Eyes are a three-piece band with balanced contributions from all members. Their music has always been quite different in nature to that made by Nikhil in his solo guise. This is easy enough to notice for those who take the time and effort.

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  7. muerte says:

    So lets set aside all the insight and focus on the banal – it’s the whole band’s effort man…jesus.

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  8. Kavish says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Music journalists tend to carve out their mandate as they please, and as they should. Mine here, was to focus on Singh (not the Wild Eyes – I don’t even mention their name); to use him as a cipher with which to have a thought about the personalities that drive 21st century bands. I don’t see how the jam process (@ralph sinden) or the balanced contributions of all members (@wigga in tha nude pile) has any dialogue with my article. ?

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  9. ralph sinden says:

    Muerte the point is hes a journalist that has gone to review a band that he obviously
    has no idea about, go to any albumn launch or release of new material by a band
    and you will not see the audience rocking out they will be watching and listening to the new material, i was at the show and it was incredible and in true wild eyes style was light years ahead of anything going on this country right now, maybe if Chetty had any insight and depth into music he would realise this instead of spending his time writing about Nikhil flicking back his hair and wondering about durban central, this was one of the best shows ive been to in years………………………..

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  10. Jonnyinbetween says:

    @Kavish – Um, you do mention the band by name, also the photos accompanying the article are all of The Wild Eyes, if writing an article about a front man persona why the images of the band. Also calling yourself a music journalist??? You are writing about perceived personality, doesn’t that belong more amongst society pages?

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  11. Dan says:

    @Kavish

    Dont stress dude, half the people who read Mahala are just getting used to the idea of what real music journalism is.

    For what its worth I thought you penned an interesting read, not a very original take on a band like the Wild Eyes but considering that Singh is their front man one that is entirely understood.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Oh, sorry, you’re right. I did mention the band’s name.

    The problem here is that our audience seems to have a very narrow concept of what is required by music journalism. The genre has long since outgrown the idea of evaluating the affective potential of the band. Everyone has their own pair of ears; everyone will reach their own conclusion as to the quality of the music.

    I, perhaps rather ambitiously, think of music as a cultural form which mediates social reality – my engagement with music, as a journalist, is always as a proxy to explore the ideas and symbols that give music currency.

    So, to anyone who expects music journalism to focus on the MUSIC: I’m afraid you’re asking far too little of your correspondents!

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  13. Kavish says:

    ^^

    Sorry, the above is from me. (and I meant to say ‘focus only on the MUSIC’)

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  14. bob says:

    Dan what is real music journalism, certanily not this rubbish

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  15. Anonymous says:

    i just looked up Kavish Chetty on facebook he says his favourite band is TOOL i mean surely
    this means he shouldnt even be allowed into a Wild Eyes show and should certanily not be allowed to
    comment publicly on music, i mean come on Tool, ha ha ha ha

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  16. Jonnyinbetween says:

    “So, to anyone who expects music journalism to focus on the MUSIC: I’m afraid you’re asking far too little of your correspondents!”

    I think that about sums the state of everything up – this is the reason why we are left with bands like Die Antwoord.

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  17. Kavish says:

    Haha! I love the fact it’s only taken like 15 comments for this thing to dissolve into ad hominem, “Oh, he likes Tool, therefore he should be gagged! we don’t like the friction of opposing opinions etc. [white noise].”

    Oh, may I just say that I actually enjoyed the concert very much. And also, Anonymous, you creep – stop looking me up on Facebook and misquoting my tastes in music!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    did he just say “ad hominem” what a TOOL, HA HA HA HA

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  19. Jonnyinbetween says:

    @Kavish – I think that the comments only descend to far when someone says that you are a Nazi for liking Tool. Although, I would vote for the fascist if they lined Tool against the wall and shot them. Just saying.

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  20. frank says:

    at times, I’m just about sucked in, taken up, hypnotised by the surrealism of the image and the words – but then, the honey inside the riffs drips away and there’s just bad writing

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  21. muerte says:

    Oh yeah this is definitely a worthwhile discussion…well done everyone.

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  22. Nadine Theron says:

    I cannot wait for the publication of The Real, Perfect and Final Guide to Music Journalism by Mahala readers. Imagine the knowledge of a million comments compiled in text book form! Then we will finally be able to do it right! Right?

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  23. Jonnyinbetween says:

    @Nadine Theron – there is no right or wrong, just good and bad, and I’m afraid this is the bad.

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  24. ralph sinden says:

    I agree Nadine it would be a hillarious read, but firstly journalists should just try reviewing whats in front of them, that usually helps, its like all those dick head journalists that went to watch the Doors but only knew Jim Morrisons name, or a million other cliches of wanking off on paper about the frontman of some band, its lame bad writing and so predictable

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  25. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone have a picture of this guy so i can punch him next time im at a show, and yes Chetty i am a nazi

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  26. Kavish says:

    I’m making my exit from these comment boards. This is just banal and petty.

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  27. Bobbins says:

    Maybe Max B can review their next show

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  28. Somnambulist says:

    Are we to believe he sings like that on purpose? It hurts.

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  29. nikhil says:

    I don’t use a plectrum.

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  30. damndemons says:

    while the review is well written, but there is no judgement of any kind. bland and passionless.

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  31. murray says:

    This article is clearly about Singh and his persona (starting with the very first sentence…) and there is nothing wrong with that. Brilliantly penned Kavish!

    Unfortunately, some mahala readers sound like they need to have disclaimer at the top of every music article: “this is a nontypical piece of music journalism”. Jassus. Idiocracy.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    nik, claire, same thing

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  33. lola says:

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  34. lola says:

    I guess the thing I find most annoying about this article is how it degenerates into that old south african cliche of small town sensationalism versus solid music journalism. More often than not, an individuals personality onstage has nothing to do with the music created. Particularly with the wild eyes. They are not selling themselves on hair flicking but on innovative music. Perhaps we have become to jaded by bands that trade off personal idiosyncracies and less off music that we have just blithely accpted that every band is trying to do this to be accepted and please people. I don’t see how a band that plays when it wants to play and plays what it wants to play could care less what an audience thought of them. They dont even try to engage with an audience on a banal level – talking to the audience etc. They dont play crown pleasing nostalgic back catalog oldies. Its just – if you like the music -get down – if you dont -fuck off. The songs are well crafted, original and there is everything from French coldwave to German Industrial, surf rock, funk, old skool rap beats and rockabilly operating there. And its homegrown. And it works – personality or not. I think they deserve a little more respect. Mahala, in my opinion, is alientaing a large part of its audience by not employing quality journalists. South Africa is in a global spotlight now and maybe its time we stopped acting like a high school playground and displayed an integrity befitting the global stage. The days of varsity gossip passing for journalism ARE OVER. SO can we please all get with the fucking program and talk about the music – as opposed to pseudo-gonzo personal impressions to the music which just sound like bad wine tasting copy….

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  35. ^JENNYDISKO^ says:

    lol* how do you call a vegan who doesnt do hard drugs ‘an emblem of emaciated excess’
    this kavish is a feckin’ retard

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  36. lee says:

    maybe next time just upload a video of chetty wanking off in his room with a photo of the frontman in the background. I don’t see how it could be worse than this tripe he’s written

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  37. Brandon West says:

    Wild Eyes are the sum of their parts. Makes absolutely no sense to focus on just one member. They are the first to tell you that there isn’t a ‘band leader’. Big up to Lola – this review is just personal bullshit masquerading as journalism…

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  38. wigga in than nude pile says:

    I agree with Lola. Not enough has been said of the new sonic direction that this band took with the last gig. It’s far more pared-down and electro orientated, but with the same trademark elastic rhythms and skewed songwriting. Less revelry, more confrontation and in many ways beyond the aesthetic comprehension of 90% of the audience in attendance. Their refusal to play any old songs was key, especially considering that more local bands are moving in a direction that they were treading a few years back.

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  39. Brandon West says:

    Yes Wigga, exactly. People have forgotten how influential this band has been in the ZA music scene. After their first few gigs a little known outfit called King Size changed their name to ‘The Dirty Skirts’ (not a very far cry is it?) and decided to get a drummer. Inge started showing the whites of her eyes a lot more onstage and aggressively babbling on about witchcraft. Die Antwoord flat out stole their tagline ‘music to crash cars to’ and made ‘funny outfits’ one of their signature charecteristics. Bands from Blck Jcks, Revelators and Magic of Pegasus all cite them as a primary sonic influence. Now they have returned and changed direction again. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see microKorgs and SPD20’s cropping up in unexpected places after a few months. This is what Chetty has failed to address. An influential underground band has re-emerged with a fresh sound. They are, in effect, ‘a whole new band’. Old preconceptions about members and the past have no place in this review at all – at least for anyone who has actually bothered to keep tabs on the ebb and flow of the Cape Town music scene…

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  40. lee says:

    YO MAHALA! sounds like your readers are more clued up than your journos
    wild eyes clearly have their act together, why don’t you stop being so slack and do something about yours?!

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  41. Anonymous says:

    lee re-read the article because it’s actually quite insightful, then go choke on a cock. Kavish did good work here. We pursue a format of personal journalism at Mahala – especially when it comes to live gig reviews. And this was a cogent and thoughtful take on the Wild Eyes gig. It just wasn’t a deeply embedded fan’s perspective. And deeply embedded fans have taken offense.

    All the pro Wild Eyes comments tend to come from a place that insinuates that Len and Gareth were maligned in the article, but really this band would not exist without Nikhil. Not a chance in hell. He is the creative sun/black hole around which the whole circus revolves. So the fact that Kavish focuses primarily on him is entirely apt. He is the main attraction. deal with it.

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  42. Marc says:

    @anonymous firstly, even if fans of the wild eyes have taken offence, that doesn’t change the fact that this is an appallingly written article. Chetty seemed to have approached the article more from the angle of a bitter ex than an objective journalist. Throwing in banal and pointless comments about Singh’s past “I heard he once was in the city after dark, what a freak.” What relevance does that have in a review, or even in setting up Singh’s character? And the only weak references he seems to be able to draw to the music is saying he sounds like Elvis on a single chorus, (the B-52s gimmick)? Shit, was he in the bathroom for the rest of the gig?

    Yes, Nikhil is a hugely creative musician, but solo materials of his are wildly different to The Wild Eyes. I mean I’ve heard stuff put out by all three of these guys and none of it sounds like The Wild Eyes, I mean sure there are elements of each of them there, but this really seems like a case of the sum being greater than its parts.

    It’s like saying Ian Curtis was Joy Division and it wouldn’t have existed without him. Of course it couldn’t, but it also couldn’t have existed without Peter Hook, Steven Morris or Bernard Sumner. This isn’t The Fall, the sound definitely doesn’t revolve around a front man. Morissey is Morissey and The Smiths were The Smiths.

    Singh is definitely a force to be reckoned with live, and drive pure energy through the bands performance, but again, the fact that Chetty couldn’t take his eyes off him brings us back to the image of a lover spurned. He’ll come to get you with a knife, write poison letters to your wife, totally destroy your life, for the pleasure of watching you squirm. Except, judging by Chetty’s writing ability, his intelligence can’t be much higher, and I doubt he’d be clever enough to pen the destruction of Singh’s life.

    “I, perhaps rather ambitiously, think of music as a cultural form which mediates social reality” – Chetty.

    As I have seen The Wild Eyes quote before “When I hear the word ‘Culture” I reach for my pistol”. Well, I too am releasing the safety catch on my browning.

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  43. len says:

    okay okay so its really all quiet touching that anyone even gives a fuck to write all of this
    as i couldnt really give a shit, but this pisses me off

    “All the pro Wild Eyes comments tend to come from a place that insinuates that Len and Gareth were maligned in the article, but really this band would not exist without Nikhil. Not a chance in hell. He is the creative sun/black hole around which the whole circus revolves. So the fact that Kavish focuses primarily on him is entirely apt. He is the main attraction. deal with it.”

    can people stop writing about things they dont actually know about
    have any of you who keep claiming that nikhil singh WRITES ALL THE SONGS ever sat in on a wild eyes band practise ?????
    and listened to us construct a song, no you havent, and that includes you Kavish Chetty !!!!!!!
    so stop presuming you have, the songs are written by all of us together through jamming
    and then taking what we like from that
    this is all getting a little stupid
    who gives a shit
    come to the next show if you liked the last one
    if you didnt
    DONT

    Kavish Chettys article kind of reminded of G.Bush talking about Iraq
    uninformed
    and
    STUPID

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  44. lee says:

    @ANONYMOUS, or should I say: whatever Mahala flunky talked back. Personal journalism only works if you HAVE A PERSONALITY. Chetty has sucked this shit out of his thumb and you are endorsing it when we even have an ACTUAL BAND MEMBER (above), protesting that what was written was total bullshit???

    So how can it be insightful when its all prefabricated BULLSHIT??Its called misrepresentation mothafuckaz. Your little attempt at a black sun or whatever spin on Nikhil don’t justify the article…

    so, like I was saying

    STOP BEING SO SLACK AND GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER

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  45. MAHALA says:

    we at mahala fully endorse Kavish’s ability to suck cock. In fact we have him sucking cock at the office all day. when he runs out of steam we just show him pictures of hot skinny frontmen and his little tail starts wagging. he is our LITTLE DASCHUND

    lee

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  46. len says:

    well mahala

    as song as hes just sucking cock and not pretending to be a journalist, im happy……………..

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  47. Carol Reed says:

    Now come on Len, you get to make the music you like, why shouldn’t Kavish get to write what he feels? You sound like a cross between Waddy Jones and that Khan dick from the Parolotnes

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  48. no thanks says:

    We need more provocative music journalism in SA, not just to inform and challenge the minds of listeners, but also so that band members can learn to calm down.

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  49. len says:

    Actually Carol im just pointing out that this is a thumb suck, im not trying to tell someone what to think of us…………………………………. thats youre opinion and youre ears are completly entitled to
    that, really do you think i walk around going, you better like my art or im gonna stab you in the neck

    wait that sounds like a plan

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  50. Anonymous says:

    why should anyone comment on anything, why doesnt eveyone just dance

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  51. Melanie says:

    There are ways to be provocative without resorting to hack writing and clichés. Inventing nonsense about people just to get a rise is the very definition of bad journalism. I mean isn’t it the exact opposite of informing and challenging minds? I mean come on…

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  52. J. De Bruyn says:

    Just checked the Assembley gig photo’s. Where’s this ‘danceless negative space’? Looks pretty lively to me

    http://www.theassembly.co.za/event/pics/75/the-wild-eyes,-the-revelators,-the-pretty-blue-guns-&-friends

    J

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  53. Mike says:

    Jas bru, place looks packed. Is there anything in this article that’s accurate!

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  54. plectrum gimp says:

    This comment response reflects such great interest in the band. What refreshing music in a small town like Cape Town. Dude, isnt it exciting that a band has emerged from the black water gutter scene that is Cape Town. The Wild eyes should be proud.

    Ps – Chetty, I would really like to stick my penis in your ear…not in a sexual way, i promise, merely, because i want to stick my penis in your ear

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  55. plectrum gimp says:

    @ Carol Reed

    Carol can I also stick my penis in your ear?

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  56. S Lee says:

    I don’t know this band (there is a song of the same name) and just REALLY wasted my time reading this so I feel the need to add that I agree this reads like thumbsuck as well as a rant, there is a place for those – blogs. Music journos have a role to play and it isn’t one of blogger, celebrity gossip or frustrated rejected admirer. The review successfully combines all these elements and reads like an elitist and infatuated but confused academic rant on a very long (unless the journo was on some illicit substance and is reporting his experience?) nameless track in the middle of which the singer shouted something. If the mood (aside from the frontman) is so important, why not name the track/s?

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  57. REBEL ROD says:

    don’t quit your gay job chetty

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  58. Mr Unknown says:

    Nikhil is a dick! throw eggs at that vegan asshole..

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