AG once remarked how Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy were very clever with the hooks in their songs. A prime example offered up then was the brass band trumpet refrain in Tainu le ke from Salaam-e-Ishq.
Rock On!! adds to that oeuvre with the blistering lead guitar solo for the title song. An ear-worm of a piece, it's made me listen to that song at least 30 times in the past week alone.
The soundtrack is an absolute winner. In a Bollywood where song sequences increasingly mean exotic locales, dozens of dancers and pointless breaks in narrative, Rock On!! succeeds because it performs (quite well) the duties of soundtrack music - drive narrative, evoke emotions and tell stories.
Javed Akhtar is pure genius as he manages to write quirky, sometimes idealistic but mostly pointless rock music lyrics (most of the film band Magik's songs), a really bad metal band song (Zehreelay), a sappy teenage ballad (Tum Ho Toh) and lovely, dreamy soundscapes (Phir Dekhiye and Yeh Tumhari Meri Baatein). S-E-L are in top form as composers, with the sound of a rock band emerging clearly. It's standard stuff: guitar intro, lyrics, simple chorus, long lead guitar solo, rinse, repeat. But that's what most new bands are about and it's quite nicely done.
Farhan Akhtar does a good job as a singer. I mean, he isn't expected to be Mohammed Rafi, and his singing is good enough for a college rock band.
Of course, what makes it all work is the film. The soundtrack isn't much without the film, and vice-versa. Writer-Director Abhishek Kapoor manages to build a whole world around the characters, all of whom live their roles with attendant instrument-playing. I won't bet my life on it, but what appears on screen seems to be in sync with what the band is playing. Maybe the long guitar solos are made-up, but the vocals, harmonies and the drumming was definitely spot-on. The lack of a bass player is explained away in a sentence ( Luke Kenny's character programs bass on the keyboard) and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt since they got most of everything else right.
While the film isn't a classic by any standards, it's low-key and honest, a rarity in Bollywood. And it still has humor, warmth and a style all its own.
Watch Out For: A rock Dandia version of Saanson ki Zaroorat Hai Kaise from Aashiqui - for me, one of the funnier moments of the film.
And now I'm off to listen to Rock On!! the song again...