INDIA: Item - Euphoria
The album is enjoyable but more so than that, balances ambition and endeavour to break the status quo without relinquishing Euphoria’s obvious pop sensibility
Legends of the Indian pop game, Euphoria, decide to break convention from producing the expected Bollywood soundtrack filled with love songs and instead decide to conduct themselves in a more thoughtful manner as they take a sideways swipe at the norms of the Indian pop genre. Naming the album Item is in fact a bold satirical move, as it pokes fun at Bollywood for its obsession with so-called ‘item numbers’. What’s more, is that unlike previous albums in which the band have spent most of their time writing about love, this album addresses genuine issues. However, I warn you not to worry, even if you cannot understand the meaning of the lyrics, there is a lot to be enjoyed on a musical level and a lot of fun to be had along the way.
“I particularly love the fusion of traditional and modern instruments on this album such as the wonderful percussive sound of the dholak on some of the tracks which pierces through more commonplace Western instruments.”
Listening to the first-half of Item, one might think that the band have cracked a fairly basic formula that works; and whilst it might eventually get tiresome, to use an analogy cricket fans will understand, the group initially seem happy to straight-bat the ball into safety. This, however, is far from what happens. Euphoria, although seemingly in their comfort-zone producing pop-rock earworms which follow a similar structure, decide to go rogue after their Elton John-esque hit Gumsum. The song itself, though jaunty and upbeat, was actually written as a letter to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The tackling of important subjects continues after this, however, it does so as the experimental half of the album kicks off. Jeene Do begins with a distinct harmonica sound and reveals itself to be a hard-blues track as singer Palash Sen show’s off a new raspy quality to his voice as he sings about the common man's frustration with terrorism and politics. The emotion behind the lyrics can be felt as he almost sings in a Tom Jones, gospel-rock fashion as he seemingly pleads for there to be a new way. This odyssey of rock continues as Euphoria perform their most ‘metal’ track Kabotoor which features unsettling laughing and a new voice adopted by Sen.
This comes in huge contrast to the softer subsequent tracks Dukeli, a 37 second female A Capella chant, and the rather beautiful ballad which features a wonderful flute section Akela. The title-track, lightly jabs at Bollywood, and in doing so adopts a cheeky ska tone to it alongside use of traditional percussive beats. Whilst it is a satirical number, the song once again serves to show off Euphoria’s versatility within the rock genre.
However, though this half of the album is somewhat impressive, it is far less memorable. It is no surprise that after seven successful pop albums the group had become masters in writing catchy hits. Picking a best song for the album was a challenge, though in the end I could look no further than the opening track - despite the fact that Sajnaa is a certified banger. Ram Ali, a song with religious undertones to it, is just a spectacular tune. It makes me simultaneously want to dance whilst also making me wish to stand arms aloft, eyes closed and bask in the glory of the track. The following song C U Later follows a similar structure in that it has a slow build-up (with its beautiful piano start) before building up to an unforgettable chorus. Sajnaa does the same thing in its calm beginning with the melodic playing of the saranga. I particularly love the fusion of traditional and modern instruments on this album such as the wonderful percussive sound of the dholak on some of the tracks which pierces through more commonplace Western instruments. In summary, if you are after pop-rock bangers then I implore you to head to the first half this album and if you have patience and a curiosity to check out Euphoria’s ambition and experimentalism then why not listen to the whole thing.