Fuzon: The beginning of a Journey

Fuzon's new album, Journey, is quite aptly named. For one, it has been a long journey since their last (and first) foray, Saagar. The album that launched Fuzon into the global phenomenon that they are now, provided a string of hits for the band. But it also set a standard and created a high level of expectation amongst its fans, who eagerly awaited the arrival of this album.

The other reason why the name suits the album is because this marks the beginning of a new journey for the band, since the departure of Shafqat Amanat Ali. For the band, there is also a departure from their original sound, towards a safer and more accessible “pop” sound. Hardcore Fuzon fans might think of it as “selling out” but perhaps they won't think as such when they hear it. The album is a free-fall plunge for the band, this is all of the things they wanted to try but always felt restricted for one reason or another. Listening to the album one comes to the conclusion that anything can happen on this album and anything invariably does.

The album starts off with Neend Na Aye and it's pretty clear from the get-go that there's something different; most notably Rameez’s vocals and the full onset of pop rock. Though the song itself is a heart-wrenching tale of loss and emptiness, the sound is quite melodic and upbeat. This could have been called a formula song, but Emu’s and Shallum’s individual talents make it anything but predictable.

Suna Suna, Dil Nay Kaha and Lagay Na Jeeya are old school Fuzon tracks. Lyrically rich and vocally enticing, these are probably the songs that come closest to Rameez making a point that he has his own style. His almost crooning like voice yearns for each word that he sings. As usual, both Emu and Shallum rely on a subtle melody and soft guitars to carry these numbers across. The sound is raw and classical, and though this album marks a departure for the band in terms of music; these tracks prove they haven't left the building yet. Though all three are ballads and don't vary too different from each other, it is this exact fusion of niche poetry and powerful musical motifs that have made Fuzon what they are today.

Tu Kahan starts off exactly like Sara Routh’s You’re Never Gone. But the similarity ends there. It is upbeat, cheerful and almost retro in its purist sound but the lyrics are completely opposite, filled with hurt and longing. Dholna is something one would not expect from Fuzon. Abrar ul Haq perhaps but not Fuzon. Going back to the "anything happening on this album comment", it was meant for this track; it catches you out of nowhere and pushes aside any initial apprehension you may have about this album.

Kahan and Nawan are some of the few disappointments in this album. These tracks are either over produced or under, too much happens in them or not enough does. Clearly these are the filler tracks within the album. Parri is the most rock Fuzon have gone. More than anything, this song probably reflects the entire age of music that the band have missed during their album hiatus, between the Jal, Atif Aslam, countless Junoon albums and the likes of Noori, et cetera.

Continuing the rock motif and the last track on the album, Choo Lo is an uplifting track that could easily accompany any sports team on their way to glory. Samba-esque beat, accompanied some lively synthesizer action and add to that, just the right cords on the guitar, make this track complete.

All the while, both Emu and Shallum seem to exude a sense of confidence and ease through each of the tracks. Each track is carefully produced, keeping in mind that they have a new singer, so whether it’s the rhythm guitar or the arrangement of the song, Fuzon is working with their new singer

Coming to the subject of Rameez Mukhtar. It would be an incredible easy task to critique him by either saying he's not as well as Shafqat or that he's simply not Fuzon material. But to dismiss Rameez immediately would be a great injustice to what he has done in this album. Here's a man who has been given the auspicious task of redefining a band's vocal sound. He doesn't step into Shafqat's shoes or even try to replace them. He has his own shoes and it will take some time for people to appreciate Rameez's stride in the journey of Fuzon.

There is however an absence of any one track that truly utilizes Rameez's potential or even exploits it for that matter. There's a sense of playing safe throughout all of the tracks, granted though because this is but the beginning of their journey.

Through all of this, there is of course the question: is it any good? The answer is yes, it is definitely a good album. Does it live up to the hype and expectations from the same band that brought you Saagar? Nope, it doesn't. However, this is not the same band that brought you Saagar. Both Emu and Shallum have come miles from who and what they were back then. From Emu's experience and exposure through producing other artists to Shallum's foray into international outings, each of them bring something new and different to this album now. You also have a new singer, who doesn't imitate the previous one and has his own voice. Essentially, this is an entirely different band put together.

This brings me to the other reason why this album is aptly named. More than anything this marks the beginning of a new journey for Fuzon (a departure, if you will). Whether this journey will see them stride all the way through or stumble along the way remains to be seen, the true judge(s) being the fans.

(This review was originally published in the June 1st, 2008 edition of DAWN Images.)

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