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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Zincs
Black Pompadour
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 7/10 ?


March 16, 2007
From reading previous reviews about The Zincs and their last album Dimmer, I found out that lead singer James "Jim" Elkington is a depressive character and that the band is a collective of styles and instrumentation. From listening to new album Black Pompadour, I found out that past critical comments on the band are not totally off base, but also land nowhere near an apt description of any of the decent sides of The Zincs and their music.

For one, Elkington's voice is a make-or-break element. If you don't like his rigid, deep toned, Bill Callahan (Smog)-style crooning you probably won't enjoy the music. But if you aren't caught up in the tones you will undoubtedly enjoy the positives of Black Pompadour, namely a vocal performance that is very rich in its storytelling and subtle harmonies with both the other instruments and female vocalist Edith Frost.

A good amount of the lyrical storytelling here is intriguing to decipher because of the way Elkington dances between two focuses: logic and syntax. In "Lost Solid Colors," a slow ballad featuring Frost, Elkington begins his lyrics with descriptive ideas: "Burn your fingers 'til they start to smoke/ and hold the tears in 'til your eyelids burst." At this point the parallels run astray: "There's a boyfriend who just can't sit still for a girlfriend whose as old as thirst/ I'm so good looking/ I'm going to tell you what you're all about." But like storytelling, the message is not always most clear at the surface.

Elkington's best performances come when he can balance logical stories and prose-y syntax. During the album's lead track ("Head East Kaspar") he sings, "The residence abandoned but aglow, my friend and I move slow and as constant as our nosebleed's ruby drop." The song talks about a journey eastward between two entities but the description makes it unclear whether "east" is New York, up a mountain in India, or to the dining room table in some nondescript apartment. The art of leaving the ultimate analysis to the listener is something Elkington must be given due credit for, and similarly, throughout the course of Black Pompadour he coins wonderful phrases such as "On tip-toes amongst the cathodes," "trout greased crowd," and "cesarean smiles" that keeps them thinking.

On the other hand, The Zincs' music leads Elkington as much as it backs him up. As described in past critique, the band is adept at creating a range of sounds - from slower folksy ballads to up-beat, poppy indie rock tunes - that provide them with a diverse pallete from which to sample. For as many moods and styles that the band hits on, the general rock instrumentation (plus piano and saxophone) is pretty humble and efficient.

But when it is the band's turn to take the lead during bridges and solos (as during the sprightly "Coward's Corral"), the appeal of the songwriting is undeniable for any rock fan, be it those leaning more to the jazz side, crusty punkers, or even clapping hipsters. On the whole, the band reminds me of latter-era Very Secretary; mostly clean electric guitars, some electronic flourishes, very live-sounding drums, and intermittent glimmers of auxiliary instruments. All of The Zincs' varied approaches come through most clearly on album's standout cut "The Mogul's Wives." This is a band that has a sterile aesthetic but is somehow able to create plenty of emotion and energy. Is that possible? I don't know. But if it is, The Zincs are doing it.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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