Fans of the Pakistani band Junoon, which has now broken up, were both thrilled and surprised by Social Circus, the debut album of the band’s lead vocalist Ali Azmat.
Where Salman Ahmed, the band’s guitarist, played safe with the tepid sounds of his own solo album Infiniti in 2005, Azmat went the other way, choosing to please himself first. The aphoristic lyrics, written by Azmat and longtime Junoon lyricist Sabir Zafar, beautifully evoke a swirl of rising, dissolving, seeking and doubting, and all the songs seem to inhabit the same continuum of feeling. Azmat’s throaty and anguished singing, impassioned and introspective by turns, is as good as ever, and the soaring and diving guitar riffs and brassy rhythm section are inlaid with notes and licks that the ear discovers only on the seventh or eighth hearing. What emerges is a vibrant sense of a self striving to articulate and clarify what it is feeling, as powerfully and memorably as in a great novel. Put it onto your iPod and set off on your own journey.