Poor Rich Boy (and the Toothless Winos) is part of a new wave of music in Pakistan, a movement that heralds an affinity for a more mature sound while at the same time being led by musicians who are relatively young.
The songs on their upcoming EP, Old Money, are a departure from what has dominated the indie scene thus far. The compositions are unique because the elements that go into their songs are out of the ordinary.
This isn’t simply a matter of experimenting with instruments like the ukulele, xylophone and glockenspiel, or tools like the e-bow, although all of that is indeed there. It’s about expanding the array of sounds that we call music and pulling them all together in a compelling way.
Complementing this originality is a real depth to their lyrics. They can be allegorical at times, like the opening track Zardarazir, a song that takes a page from the style of mythological storytelling, with the characters being largely symbolic.
The lyricists, Shehzad Noor and Omar ‘Duck’ Khan, don’t shy away from sentimentality, and through the EP you can’t escape the feeling that their songs are often about a variety of human relationships. There’s quite a bit of seriousness packed into five songs, layered over an ambience that often leans towards the ethereal.
When it comes to composition and arrangement, restraint is employed, and coupled with attention to detail. While the vocals stand out as the overarching element of all five songs, other less distinct factors hold an integral place in each track. There’s an admirable talent in the subtlety with which the drums complete songs such as Alice and Fair Weather Friend.
Later, the skills of drummer Ravail Sattar come in more powerfully on tracks like, the newest Old Money, and most certainly add a wow factor to Finger (a personal favourite).
In the early days of the band, when they were still The Poor, The Rich, The Well Off, the band was known for its experimental sound, put on display in raucous live shows. The new track, Old Money, is a throwback to that sound.
Go back and listen to singles like Tasbih, and you’ll find shades of the new there. The title track is a song in three parts, coming in softly, led by Noor’s crooning. And then it jumps out at you with a dose of rock that isn’t anywhere else on the EP (but is a mainstay of the bands live performances). Then, finally, it tapers, lulling you into a sense of bliss.
Then the last song, Finger, pulls together the entire band’s talents in full force. The guitars, the lead vocals, the harmonies, bass line, and percussion, it’s all there, and ties together extremely well.
While by this point the respective talents of each band member should no longer come as a surprise, the production quality is worth noting, especially considering a couple of things: this is Zain Ahsan’s first time producing and the studio is a room in his home.
Yes, the EP has been a year in the making, and there is precious little on it that fans of Poor Rich Boy haven’t already heard, but it is nonetheless worth admiring. The sequence of songs unfolds beautifully, and the main criticism I can come up with is that there needs to be more: more songs, an album, more live performances. The six of them are talented, and they come together in a way that bands who have been playing together far longer aspire to.
Asad Khawaja is the host of the show Moonlight Mile on CityFM89, airing Thursday Nights, 10:30 to midnight You can find him on Twitter; @asadmkh