Better Late Than Never – Rock On Review
August 8, 2008
It is funny when certain trends catch up when they have actually passed out of vogue in other places. India is ripe for such trends. Every new fashion, style, mantra or music makes its arrival slightly late out here, putting us out of sync with the rest of the world. Most of this was to be blamed on our repressive socialistic economic policies, but now things look better. After all, Hollywood does once in a while include India in its Worldwide Releases and the iPhone is supposed to be launched in India with many other countries. Likewise, suddenly this rock music fetish has taken India by storm. Wherever you go, everyone wants to be a rocker, the slogans all sound like “Life Rocks”, “Let’s Rock”, etc. etc. And for any trend to get approval in India, it has to be evaluated, agreed upon and adopted by that all-governing body of Indian culture, Bollywood. So well, when Bollywood comes out with a movie about rock stars and their lives, how can the rest of India be left behind?
So when the news came out that a movie called “Rock On” would be coming soon, I was skeptical. After all, all that common India and Bollywood knows about rock music is from a long-haired dude called Pritam and Saif Ali Khan. Someone once commented to me that Saif Ali Khan has joined Parikrama!!! Dude, get a life!!! He just played once with them, and I doubt if he ever played, because I’ve evidence that apna Saifu normally doesn’t play the guitar on stage, but just mimics it!!! Its surprising that how very few people know that Vishal Dadlani, the man behind Bluffmaster & Om Shanti Om, was the screaming, wild frontman of Pentagram, one of India’s foremost bands. It seems he too doesn’t want to show himself as a rocker child anymore. And the only other rock connection was the stream of infinite, faceless, yet similar Pakistani bands, brought to India, by Mahesh & Mukesh uncles. So you see, I was prejudiced.
Now, that’s a first. I believe every critic has his prejudices and that comes out in their reviews. But no critic would like to accept it, and would always strive to maintain that they are unbiased and fair. Now I’m human, and I’ve prejudices. So well, I wasn’t too keen on the music of Rock On, and thought it would be another piece of trashy Bolly-rock. But well, the legend that is Ivan Quadras was not made out of prejudices, but out of fighting them. I’ve been known to try everything at least once, so why not this?
For a movie called Rock On, I was expecting a man like Pritam to be the composer, or some new kid on the block. Or maybe a company of collaborators, picked up from the small, but significant rock industry in India. Imagine my surprise, when I came to know that the composers were our own desi Three Musketeers – Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy – and the lyricist was Javed Akhtarsaab. Whoaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Now is that some rock band or wat!!! So here we go, on our review of Rock On…
We’ll review each track, and then the whole album,and I guess, by the end, we should have a consensus, wat say???
- Socha Hai (Vocals: Farhan Akhtar): Socha Hai begins this journey, and it is a good song for a starter. But you feel that the riffs and the hook has been robbed from some Pakistani band, who in turn have robbed Metallica. The lyrics are simplistic, yet hummable. The song is more on the Bon Jovi style of glam rock and works well to set the mood. Rating: 7/10
- Pichle Saat Dinon Mein (Vocals: Farhan Akhtar): Easily the best and most hummable tune of the album. Farhan’s nonchalant vocals and the song’s catchy hook make it a song to jump up to, raise your hands and go “Na-na-na-na-na-Na-na-na-na-na”. Wonderful lyrics, good music. Rating: 9/10
- Rock On (Vocals: Farhan Akhtar): The title song begins with another lifted, yet wonderful riff. But then it wanders into known territories and becomes this Bon Jovish kinda track. The vocals on this are good, but the music lets you down after a while. I’ve read in some review that the tune is from the background music that ran behind Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya. Well, what can I say!!! Rating: 7/10
- Yeh Tumhari Meri Baatein (Vocals: Dominique Carejo): This one’s a winner. Suprisingly, the winner on a rock album is not a hard rock/heavy metal song, but a soft, slow number. Dominique’s vocals hauntingly remind you of Sheryl Crow, and using a Westernized-accented vocals does wonders for this track. This is the kind of song that I’d like my girlfriend to sing to me! I can even picture the song – she in her old pajamas and vest, coffee in one hand, standing in the balcony and looking out at the rains, while I’m holding her from behind in my arms!!! Well, I’m digressing, but that’s what this song makes you do! Wonderful lyrics, great tune, and marvellous vocals. It is going to be a sure hit among the women, college-going and young wokring ones, especially. Rating: 9.5/10
- Zahreelay (Vocals: Suraj Jagan): Surprise, Surprise!!! Metallica’s in the house!!! I want to ask the composers if they did this on their own. Because I don’t think they did. This song is the oddity on the album, and yet I liked it. Not loved it. Because it had crappy lyrics. I know some people will not like this song or its lyrics, but if you want to know what real, good rock music is about, it is like this. Maybe then every poser will know that rock is not everyone’s cup of tea. If only someone had given this song some really, thrash metal, meaty lyrics!!! This is a personal thumbs-up to the song. Hail Bollywood’s first thrash metal song! Bolly-thrash!!! Rating: 7/10 (It loses marks for the lyrics)
- Tum Ho Toh (Vocals: Farhan Akhtar) This song was a letdown. People may like it, but frankly speaking, I got tired of the sappy love feeling this song has. It clearly smacks of U2, and the song fails to elicit any praise as you keep feeling it’s been done somewhere else. Rating: 5/10
- Sinbad the Sailor (Voclas: Farhan Akhtar & Raman Mahadevan): Do I sense Iron Maiden out here? Frankly speaking, I got curious about the album for this one song. I wanted to know if anyone has gone ahead and taken inspiration from Maiden. The name, Sinbad the Sailor, reminded me of such Maiden classics such as Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great and Phantom Of The Opera. So does the song live up to my expectations? One word – Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Leave alone Maiden, the song is not even rock! It is more Madonna, than Maiden! It clearly sounds like some boy-band track, more in tune with the group-dance ones like Take That or Step 5! An absolute waste of good lyrics, which bear some semblance to Steve Harris’s skills. The worst song on the whole album. Rating: 1/10
- Pichle Saat Dinon Mein (Live): Now this, like many other things on this album, is a first. Let’s get this straight – a live version of a song comes out when the band has successfully released it, the public has accepted it, and it has been etched in public memory. The song then becomes a part of the band’s gigs and tours, and out of the many songs, only a few fall in the live playlist of a band. The notable live albums of bands are Iron Maiden’s Live after Death, Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Live Era and Metallica’s S & M. So, why a live song here? I dunno. Farhan is good on the vocals and the talking to the crowd part. But you know what, the song sounds produced and not live at all. The screams, hollers and claps of the crowd are actually a track that is played in the background for the whole song!!! And it is clear that the “Na-na-na-na-na-Na-na-na-na-na” is sung not by the crowd, but by a bunch of background vocalists. Sheeeeeeeessssshhhhhhhhhh!!! Rating: 5/10
- Phir Dekhiye (Vocals: Caralisa Monteiro): One more slow number featuring vocals by a female. It is a good song, almost like Yeh Tumhari Meri Baatein, but has a different charm, almost like a song sung by someone who is leaving. Maybe it fits the end of the album theme. Caralisa has sung well, and the acoustic guitar gives her good company. A good track. Rating: 8/10
So how does the album feel as a whole?
- Positives: The bass, the bass, the bass!!! Finally, someone realizes the importance of the bass guitar. Rock music has generally been portrayed in ads, and has been ridiculed by showing long-haired fellas playing wildly on the electric guitar. Though the electric guitar distortions and leads are a vital part of what defines rock, it is the bass that is the foundation as well as cornerstone of the genre. All so-called Bolly-rock till now were conspicuous in their glaring absence of the bass. Rock On brings the bass to Bolly-rock. A big round of applause for SEL to attempt something radical and different in composing this soundtrack. Also, Javed Akhtar rises notches high with his deft penmanship and writes some really good rocking stuff.
- Negatives: Every song sounds as if it is lifted from somewhere, not completely, but at least the central riff or hook. It becomes hard to appreciate it for this reason, as it doesn’t look new. Also, it is understandable that the soundtrack is for a movie, but which band plays so many genres in one single album, leave alone its lifetime? There is influence from Bon Jovi, U2, Metallica, some Pakistani bands, Sheryl Crow, etc. in making this album. What a spectrum of the whole mega-genre of rock music! Maybe they wanted to have an all-inclusive sound, but well, it feels very disconcerting. And some non-worthy tracks such as Sinbad the Sailor pull the album down.
Verdict: The album is a breath of fresh air in Hindi film music. Also, I believe Indian metal bands should take a cue from this album. Simply because, the current rock scene is bleak because we live in this Western hangover where we are imitating Western bands and coming out with Western-sounding metal and rock. Indian bands should make use of our Indian instruments, string as well as percussion, and provide the whole world a new face that is Indian heavy metal and Indian rock. Believe me, it is possible to create heavy music with our Indian instruments. It is all about carving one’s own niche, than following others. Rock music has finally arrived, hope it stays. We are late, but better late than never. Non-rock followers, enjoy this album, it is as good as a pure heavy rock album. Rockers, well you weren’t expecting too much anyways, right? So it comes as a pleasant surprise. It works both ways. Album Rating: 7/10
There, I hope this review is as unbiased as I can produce. Everyone’s trying to be different, that different has become common. But well, that’s another story.
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