Zen and the art of rock
CD of the week: Zen Arcade: Release
Zen Arcade's follow-up to the successful Snowflake proves they havn't lost their touch, writes Riaan Wolmarans.
August 7, 2003
After their independently Released debut, Snowflake, was nominated for a South African Music Award and impressed many critics, all eyes were on local four-piece rock act Zen Arcade.
Now they have brought out, again independently, a follow-up, Release — and they haven’t lost their touch. It’s a well-crafted product (produced by David Birch), opening with the easy-going but insistent melodic rock of Rest Day and keeping the rock mood rather dramatic and serious until halfway through the album, when the tender ballad All the World provides a nice breather. Though some tracks are decidedly uneventful, highlights include the lashings of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll on the funk rock of Beat Grinder, the bouncy beat and happy lyrics of Summer Sun and the two bonus tracks: the atmospheric, laid-back Letter from a Friend and the perfectly crafted hit Crazy over You.
Singer Andrew Iain McKenzie’s vocal style is still very much reminiscent of lots of Pearl Jam and a little bit of Dave Matthews. Apparently the band did not appreciate being categorised in this way after Snowflake. Here, on the rather angry Simple Things McKenzie sings: “Do I have to be Kid A? Sound like Eddie Vedder man?” On Bend he complains about “bending backward ... trying to please”, and the darker Release warns: “Don’t question my Release” — and Release could easily be read as music.
It’s clear that this is a band who want to be taken seriously in their own right, without being compared to others. Luckily they have the skills and devotion to pull this off, else they might easily have been just another local band clamouring for attention. -Mail & Guardian
Various: Derek the Bandit’s World of Dance Volume 4 (Virgin)
Twenty bubblegum house tracks that can barely be described as the “world” of dance. Some tracks are fun by themselves, but the whole leaves one cold. — RW