Since the early ‘60s, garage and lo-fi rock have been staples in music. Though many of the bands of this genre are mostly unrecognized or have faded into oblivion, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have an impact on bands of a later generation. In the past few years, bands like No Age have led the latest lo-fi rock revival. That being said, Philadelphia natives PO PO have taken elements of lo-fi rock and electronica, and smashed them together to make one of the most diverse sounding records in some time.
Formed by Zeb Malik along with his brothers Hassan and Shoaib, the group formed in the latter part of the last decade. Though the name PO PO conjures up different meanings in many languages (for example, it can be used slang for the police, to Germans it means butt etc), but in their native Pakistan, the term is slang for your dad’s sister (as opposed to your mother’s sister). Why this name? As Zeb told the Philadelphia Weekly, it is a way to describe a badass woman. Whatever the reason, the name sounds cool in any language.
Through a stroke of luck, the band’s demo ended up in the right hands, in this case that meant Trent Reznor. Before they knew it, as an unsigned band, they went from playing small rooms with even smaller crowds in the greater Philadelphia-area, to touring with Nine Inch Nails. In 2008, a year after they finished touring with NIN, PO PO met fellow Philadelphian and DJ extraordinaire Diplo through Athens, Ga-based band Dark Meat, who brought the DJ to a PO PO in their hometown. The DJ was so impressed by the group’s unique dynamic that he signed them to his Mad Decent record label.
After years of work and despite having every bandmember except for Zeb leave the group (yes, even his brothers left), Dope Boy Magick was finally released last week and is one of the more compelling albums to be come out this year. Songs on the record range from the typical early Nirvana garage sounding jams to anthemic (and believe it or not) U2 sounding lo-fi magic. Though the songs may not sound alike, the one constant element amongst them is that they’re all very, very good. The faster, punkier songs give the album it’s foundation and allows for the bigger songs to stand out as the strongest on the album. The album’s inconsistency is what defines PO PO; imaginative while making you wonder what’s next. What Zeb does here, whether he meant it or not, is create a genre-bending sound that can appeal to a mass audience.
Having received accolades from artists ranging from the aforementioned Reznor to Theophilus London, PO PO is finally set to take off. With the first LP finally behind him, the future looks bright for Zeb. As long as he’s still focused, continues to take chances sonically and doesn’t take a while to release the follow-up, PO PO could be one of the most interesting bands to emerge in the past few years.