Cairo's resident garage rockers, Dirty Backseat, have spent the year building up to the release of their debut EP, GooBad, out this past week. Though the project got its start in 2013 during jam sessions between Noha Amin (vox, guitar, and keys) and Moe Hani aka Psycho (vox, bass, guitar and keys), it got pushed to the side due to Psycho's need to prioritize other musical projects - The Cadillacs for example. In 2017, Dirty Backseat came back into focus, and Marwan Wahid, also a Cadillacs member, came on as drummer.
In October, they released their raw and catchy debut single, "Hypnotize Me," a surf-punk love/hate jam. A few months later they played their first show at Cairo Jazz Club to a very stoked audience.
They took a very different approach to GooBad than that of their debut single. "The EP is way more powerful and dynamic" Psycho says, and "even the ways we used for recording were different & interesting to us." They went the DIY route, which "in other words, proved to us that we can literally dispense the use of overpriced recording studios, and rely on our home studio instead."
The EP is a straightforward and solid blend of lo-fi garage rock post-punk, with lyrics following a common theme, and enough musical diversity to keep it continuously interesting. "I love the fact that all of the lyrics in GooBad have a subtle meaning behind them, they all rotate around social & personal aspects," says Psycho. Their music melds the sounds of late '70s and '80s post-punk and shoegaze with surf rock, and the sound of lo-fi Los Angeles punk of the 2000s.
GooBad starts out with a heavy and steady kick drum, shrouded by swirling, ethereal synths which resolve and solidify into a special melody and thudding base, setting the tone for the bubbling underwater vocals to come in. This is "Ghar'an", the first track off the EP, a slow-burning weirdo warm-up to the rest of the EP.
"Cassette Tapes" is the personal favorite of the band, Psycho says - "the lyrics are very special to me." This is the teenage fury track off the album, which is propelled by Noha Amin's confrontational vocals and driving drums. "Shouf Shouf (Alien Abduction)" thuds in aggressively, the most typically garage rock track on the disc. Fattened by heavy bass, drums, and a thick guitar riff, vocals whine in through a heavy curtain of delay and reverb. This song sounds like driving a battered muscle car way too fast through eerie desert wastelands, pursuing, or perhaps fleeing the extraterrestrial.
It takes a smooth segue into "Etnien," a much more laid-back cool-boy track, frosted by Psycho's placid croon in Arabic. In the second half of the song, it veers towards the abrasive, with black-hole noise and angled guitars. "Bitter Sweet" ties off the EP with a solid rock guitar line, lightened by shakers. Psycho sings over in a Bradford Cox meets Lou Reed whisper, and in fact the whole track is reminiscent of Deerhunter. The end of the song feels a bit like an outro, with repetitive guitar twanging over space noises, before the engine shuts down and everything fades out.
All in all, GooBad is a well-produced, fun and interesting listen. It spans a realm of rock and punk genres, while maintaining a cohesiveness and consistency throughout. Though it doesn't necessarily venture into noticeably unorthodox territory, the Dirty Backseat touch is definitely there, and it is good. There is never too much rock & roll, and especially in Cairo, we could use a bit more of this.