I thought I grew out of Mashrou Leila in the two years that passed since they launched their second album, “El Hal Romancy”.
It’s hard to explain. I will try: “El Hal Romancy” had hopeful undertones that started to fucking piss me off as the days passed. “Let’s burn the city down,” they say. “Let’s build a more honest one.” “You’re an ATM?” they ask. “It doesn’t matter. Let’s read Engels, for the solution is romantic, and not particularly wrong.”
In 2011, those words felt right. I was willing to feel hopeful, to let the wind of spring tickle my face. Maybe you can build a more honest city, I thought.
But spring never came.
The winter returned to be harsher than ever. Everything started falling apart, and I developed an angry, nonchalant outlook on life. Hope itself started pissing me off. “El Hal Romancy” pissed me off.
Maybe it isn’t fair to Mashrou Leila that I expect them to represent the realities of the Arab world. But I do. In their first two albums, they always managed to capture the spirit of the times. But their music became old, and I did not think I will enjoy “Raasuk”, their just-released third studio album.
But then it played, and played and played, and fuck, I am in love all over again.
The circus of rage! Instruments raining anger, desperation, darkness, all at the same time.
“Taxi” rambles with determined urgency, pushed along by the violin’s precision, Haig engulfing Hamed’s words in a torrent of anger, “Whether you want it or not the vehicle will keep going. Your trip has no meaning as nothing else has meaning. You will die. Whether you want to or not, you will die.”
You will die.
In Al-Bahar (the sea), there is no escape from the pain of loss: “Oh, night hide me with your darkness. Oh, night, fill me, make me stronger with your darkness.”
The track “Raasuk”, which carries the album’s name, is restless and dark, “His heartbeat had a rhythm that could be heart before they cut it out. They hunted you and tamed you. Made you bend on your knees and trained you. To move like them. With the rhythm they enslaved you, programmed you and taught you. There was a choice and you danced. We were free and you danced. Suicide, and you danced.”
You may remember my obsession with “Ma Tetrekni Heik”. In the album version, Hamed’s wilting croon is close to harrowing. He sounds like a man dying from pain.
But even with all these darknesss, the music on Raasuk is lively, and immediate. It’s a circus, actually: entertaining, melodic, sarcastic, ironic, beautiful, incomprehensible, slightly on the edge of insanity. A circus of darkness.
Just like our lives are.
Read a wonderful review on Ma3azef for the album (Arabic).