Review by Nadeem F. Paracha
’ve never met them. Neither saw EP in concert. And I really don’t want to. Because I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed. In other words, yes, their debut album, the much awaited (and anticipated), Irtiqa is really that good!
So what in God’s name were some of them doing slap sticking on Indus Vision’s Jat & Bond? Not that it was such a bad idea for an offbeat Vee-Jaysque comedy, and not also because it continued to crack the same jokes long after most of them stood worn out … the point I’m trying to get at here is that, some of the EP men I saw on that show and those I heard on Irtiqa … are they the same?
If you listen to songs like “Waqt” and, especially the epic climaxing of the album in the anger and angst-ridden shape of “Irtiqa III”, I’m sure most of you would agree that nothing more intense and powerful has emerged in the local pop scene ever since Junoon’s 1993 ripper “Talaash” and Najam’s hysterical, paranoid call-to-arms, “Sona Chata Hoon” (1995).
And in the eventual event of modern-day Junoon seeming to be fast running out of steam, (settling instead for pseudo-compositions dipped in cola cocktails), and men like Najam taking the JJ route of embracing a queer mixture of born-again-religiosity and cynical pop corporatism, all this makes Irtiqa an important event in the confines of Pakistan’s blow-hot, blow-cold pop scene.
Especially for those not all that enthusiastic about the browning saccharine of the scene’s past masters like Ali Haider, Junaid Jamshed, and the repetitive bhangra-pop nonsense of the once-upon-a-time energy personas such as Jawad Ahmed and Abrar-ul-Haq. Even for those who’ve had enough social, emotional and domestic strife to face in post-9/11 Pakistan, enough to stop giving a damn, really, about the (albeit competent) fluff being offered by the likes of The Strings’ Dhani.
But mind you, not all’s well with Irtiqa. Because if they do ever take notice of a burnt-out (but experienced) critic like yours truly, I’d right away suggest them to at once cut out the English rapping bits on their next album.
I am convinced this album would certainly have gone down as perhaps the most intense recording in the realms of local pop & rock had EP decided not to puncture the songs with these rather unreal (?) sounding rap-metal bits (ala Linkin Park).
The long-drawn, all-Urdu climax song “Irtiqa-III” is a great case in point. It rants, raves, twists and turns with dynamic arrangements, odd-time signatures, lyrics washed with angry bile and vocals that can send shivers down your spine.
EP should not worry that whether the album will be able to sell as many copies as Junoon’s Deewar, Strings’ Dhanni or Fakhir’s Atish. Because the above acts get their extra mileage from the sponsors they sell colas, tea and flavored biscuits for. There’s now hardly any difference left in what they are singing about in their songs or crooning about in a jingle. Whereas albums like Irtiqa are reflecting well the anxiety, the agitation and conflicts ripping apart most young middle-class Pakistanis.
And another suggestion, Korn seems to be a dominating influence on EP’s sound and song structure. I think to make it more complex, dynamic and involving they should start venturing into a mixture of influences, ranging from Pink Floyd’s Animals , Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality, Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral, Rush’s Moving Pictures and Nusrat Fathe Ali’s initial recordings for Peter Gabriel’s Passion.
EP should also be applauded for having the guts (and the mind) to actually manage giving the local scene its first taste of a full-blown concept album.
In the end, guys, you really didn’t have to put that irritating ‘Pepsi battle of the bands’ logo on the cover. Your music is good enough to ever require such hollow corporate patronage. And remember, being a critic who once helped Junoon break into the print media, my experience tells me there is hardly any difference, really, between a cynical corporate exec and a foaming fat mullah, dig?