Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jal's Boondh

My reviews (books/music/movies) tend to be subjective and all over the place. It's about how the album/movie/book makes me feel at that point more than anything else. So usual disclaimers et al.

Second albums are always a challenge. You have your whole life to do your first album but you only have a year or two to do the second one. Plus, if you've had a reasonable modicum of success, the added weight of expectations and the likelihood of adulation going to your head are both high. So second albums in some ways are doomed. How many artists have we seen fade away after a promising debut?

Jal thankfully won't fade away at least on the basis of their second release. Aadat - their debut album had a lot going for it. Their scrappy guitar-based rock sound which sounded like a couple of friends out to have a good time was fresh and appealing. The solid songwriting on tracks like Aadat, Bikhra Hoon Main and Dil Haray Pukaray was pure bonus.

I wouldn't say that their second album Boondh is a top-notch effort in the realm of Aadat. However it shines in a few notable places and what it's not means as much as what it is.

It's not an album by a rock band deciding to go crowd-pleasing just for the heck of it. There are no hip-hop remixes, no gratuitous uh huh's, yeah yeah's and 'on the floor's  by weird sounding voices trying to sound hip but only sounding annoying. There are no female choruses going it's rocking. It's an enjoyable pop-rock album, thought at places it's a tad overambitious and tries too hard. Some notes:

- Sajni starts the album strong - with good backing vocals featuring both the vocalists and a smattering of acoustic guitar

- Chalte Chalte starts off well before adding crowd applause samples towards the end which I found annoying. Though it fits well with the music video featuring Amrita Rao

- Raatein is IMO the one solid old-school Jal track coming from Aadat-land. Enjoyable, very interesting transitions

- On Moray Piya, the vocals of Farhan Saeed Butt sound mature and you can see him ready to move on beyond teen-bop. Enjoyed this one

- Main Mustt Hoon is a fairly enjoyable track drawing on traditional Sufi music. This track threw me off because I wasn't expecting Jal to sing 'Jhule Lal Qalander' in a refrain ever

- Mahia (my favorite track on the album) features some good rock-out music. Very familiar 4x4 beat (Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze?)

- Chup Chup has a vibe to it that reminds me of Kucch to Hua Hai from Kal Ho Na Ho. Interesting vocals, liked it on further listens

The two tracks on the album I didn't care for much were Humein Itna Na Pyaar and Kia Se Kia. The slow versions of Sajni and Humain Itna Na Pyaar left me cold as well. This trend has to stop - unless you're adding something new (see Bikhra Hoon Main/Aadat), one version per album is quite enough, thank you.

While being a good album, the album suffers from less-than-stellar songwriting. An obvious culprit is Humein Itna Na Pyar Karo. While the rest of the songs aren't bad, nothing comes close to the intensity or quality of Aadat's songwriting. Maybe there is something to the sophomore jinx.

Another grouse about the album I had was its overproduced feel. It feels like the band (or rather, Goher Mumtaz who wrote and composed all the tracks on this) tried too hard to incorporate too many sounds rather than letting the sound flow organically. Incidentally, the producer on the album is Mekaal Hassan who is a remarkable composer and performer himself with his own band. His Sampooran is a lovely album, also slightly overproduced but highly recommended.

All in all, a solid but not remarkable release from the Pakistani rock stables. But Pakistani pop-rock is alive and kicking and that is good news.

1 comment:

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