Philly's own, Zeb Malik, has been to hell and back. Now, finally, he has something brilliant to show for it. Zeb, once part of a quartet know as The PO PO (consisting of Zeb’s two brothers, Shoaib and Hassan, and Mike Collins), was raised to immeasurable heights by the seemingly benevolent hand of Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor. Reznor, who stumbled upon The Po Po’s demo, immediately enlisted the group to join NIN on tour. That was 2009, and it was all downhill from there. Malik cites the NIN debacle as counter-productive to the band’s success. It sapped their motivation, endowed them with an air of entitlement, and eventually led to the band’s partial destruction.
Now, only Zeb and Shoaib remain at the helm of The PO PO, and after a series of 7” and singles, Diplo’s Mad Decent label has given the Malik brothers another chance. On their first full-length, Dope Boy Magick, the album funnels the brothers’ love of everything from garage punk to traditional Middle Eastern showtunes into a musical masterwork of history and regionalism (both American and Pakistani – their descendent heritage).
The album opens as a low-fi, homage to the forefathers of punk. Drenched in fuzz bass, heavy rhythm and just a touch of Middle Eastern flair, “Final Fight,” “Dnt Wnt U, Jus Wnt It All” and “Knife Iz Yung” have a brilliant, hard-nosed, energy. The more ambient dance track, “Let’s Get Away,” is as good a single as I expect to hear, this year, with waves of euphoria pouring from keyboards and disco beats. The austere hypnosis of tracks like “Holy Mountain,” “U Remind Me” and “Bummer Summer” are as much psychedelic as they are spiritual. The albums latter tracks, like “Poponguzu,” “Siksiksik” and “My Last Name is Malik, But the Boy Call Me Freak” are soaked in the sounds of the brothers’ Pakistani upbringing, laced with palatable beats, giving them an almost other-worldly feel. The Closer, “Teen Dreamz” has a new wave essence, adding yet another dimension to The PO PO sound.
The variances on Dope Boy Magick are broad and sweeping, as the Malik brothers play out their sonic fantasies. As if their perseverance wasn’t enough, the duo successfully melds Eastern and Western music in a pensive and hypnotic way, making their release appropriately revolutionary, heroic, and laudable.