Look out, honey – Philadelphia’s Po Po is using technology. Downsizing from three to two members, Po Po has managed to maximize their sound, moving beyond straight garage rock and instead blending a lifetime of musical exposure into an amazing full-length debut that samples styles seamlessly. Jumping from their still-fresh garage rock roots to experimental laptop compositions to straight, hard rock strumming and a sprinkling of tribal style, Po Po’s Dope Boi Majik, out on Diplo’s Mad Decent label, is impossible to anticipate from track to track – it hits the ears like Muhammad Ali, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.
At their most unpredictable, Po Po turn technology into oddly tribal, or at least mossy, music. The mostly instrumental “POPONGUZU” builds off of a distorted vocal beat, adding a rhythmic thumping and sparkling space sounds. A number with no clear-cut path, “POPONGUZU” tears through jungle percussion, ripping a black hole into the rainforest. Caught between violent thrusts of screaming electronics, a bog dance party erupts in “Sik Sik Sik,” the bullet-ridden extension of “POPONGUZU.” Wet, thick, and utterly unreal, it’s the kind of shit Old Gregg could get down to. Or maybe this is what it sounds like in the belly of a techno-obsessed whale. Emerging from the muck is the far more mainstream “Let’s Get Away.” Pure synth magic, “Let’s Get Away” still meets its laptop latitudes with an awesome call of the wild: a low-howling horn sound that curls around the dance beat, drawing happy feet to the floor to tap out a hypnotic rain dance rhythm.
But the real heart and soul of Dope Boi Majik is the delectable chunk of fuzz crunch delivered in the band’s tough two-door tunes. “Bummer Summer” is the go-to rock track of Dope Boi Majik. Starting with a breath straight into your inner ear, “Bummer Summer” is sung with sunglasses and a hazy, humid feel, yet the song is anchored with the sickest, thickest, most evil bass beat ever created in shadow. Humming happily about running out of space, the track walks the line between light and dark with a slow, purposeful strut.
Po Po even dabble in more traditional hard rock with opening tracks “Dnt Wnt U, Jst Wnt It All” and “Final Fight.” But both numbers sound like episodes from an archaic form of alternative rock circa Incubus or Soundgarden and fall a little flat in comparison with the rest of the album. The vocals seems out of step, and the tracks are ultimately too tough to chew. “About U Boy,” another harder track, though this time closer in comparison to Queens of the Stone Age for its creepy, kill-your-mother vocal progression, bridges the gap between fuzz and clear-cut hard rock, turning a sexually ambiguous and obsessive song into a pretty sweet stalker jam.
For all its scattered style and sound, Dope Boi Majik still sticks together, surprisingly coherent for a debut that may, at first listen, sound like the Greatest Hits of some radically experimental band. Constantly surprising and, better than that, sincerely intriguing, each track on Dope Boi Majik points to Po Po’s virtuosity. With a debut like this, I can’t wait to see what this mini band of brothers will do next.
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