Youssef Abouzeid’s new PanSTARRS EP ‘Ghaby Ghaby Ghaby’ (Stupid, Stupid, Stupid) is a sonic and stylistic departure from the band’s previous releases, while still maintaining the echoey feedback-laden reverb-drenched hallmarks of the band’s signature indie-rock sound. The changes are derived from the introduction of a heavier bass synth sound to anchor the album alongside Abouzeid’s customary guitar work, and a change in the approach to the vocals, which sit deeper and more central than before, playing off the lower register of the synths. This gives the EP a denser, weightier sound.
But we also need to mention the more mischievous and sexual nature of the lyrical content that runs throughout the album, most prominently on the opening track ‘Khally Balak Hatmoot’ (Beware You’ll Die) which documents an exchange between a young adult male and an older woman and includes lines like “See, people are (sexually) frustrated and will prematurely ejaculate.” As Abouzeid sings in Arabic through the entirety of this album (previously he alternated between Arabic and English) and adopts an almost Dave Gahan-like grand vaudevillian singing style circa ‘Ultra’, it makes the lyrical message even more pronounced. This all combines to really Egyptianize the record. This could have only come from here, genre notwithstanding.
The guitar reemerges in the middle of the second track ‘Men Gheir Wa7da’ (Without One) with a fantastic riff – also in a lower register – while Abouzeid continues to explore the male/female dynamic from a male perspective in another context before intoning that “Change is good and makes you fat. Change envies itself” which is our favourite lyric from the album. The third track ‘Tortit Naml’ (Ant Cake) also contains a pitched bass line and a guitar-driven middle section before ending in a glorious thirty seconds of screeching feedback.
But it’s on the plaintive ‘Sahla Ya Khaifa’ (Easy Scaredy-Cat) that the guitar really wrestles centre stage back from the synth tones and this song is the closest to older PanSTARRS material, with a backing vocal that doubles the main vocal in a higher register. It’s also the slowest number on the record as well as the most charming, making the oft-repeated line “I’m small-minded” disarming in the extreme.
Fittingly, the album ends with the return of the warm drone bass synth on ‘7omar 3ala 7osan’ (Donkey on a Horse) which is happily reminiscent of one of our favourite PanSTARRS tracks ‘Ayez Anam’ (I Want To Sleep). In summation, the new introductions to the PanSTARRS sound – whether the thick synth tones or newer vocal stylings – are very fruitful additions and complement the guitar lines and snare-filled beats.
We can’t sign off without a nod to the album artwork by Hashem El Kelesh, which is of a man who appears to be … well decide for yourself.