: September 2001: Who will save rock &
Will Save Rock 'n' Roll?" ask the Dictators, who've been
trying hard for twenty five years. Well, ladies and gentlemen,
here's the answer: ZEN GUERRILLA, the best rock 'n' roll
band IN THE WORLD. This rock, experienced live, throbs
with so much soul, sweat and spunk that ya can't help
but remember your groin and what it's there for. It crackles
and sparks with such fierce intensity you can't help but
catch the electricity. It's so primal and perfect it teaches
your ears to hear, so wet hot vibrant ya oughtta bring
a spare pair o' panties.
it must be said that Zen Guerrilla has always had a hard
time pouring the ecstatic evangelical experience of their
live show into vinyl's shallow grooves, and Shadows
on the Sun is no different. It is their strongest
outing to date and a good catechism to prepare the listener
for his/her baptism, but it's no substitute for the real
is loud and heavy, sometimes so heavy it verges on
the ponderous, but after years of precious pop, who's
complaining? Opening track "Barbed Wire" blows the roof
off with ZG's quintessential brand of overwrought otherworldly
Baptist spiritual, rendered rawk by Richard Millman's
dissonant chords and obsessive/compulsive guitar runs,
and Marcus Durant's distorted shiver-inducing vocals.
Shadows has more than a few of these nouveau spirituals,
jousting for time with all-out 70's rock anthems like
the standout "Captain Infinity" and the psychedelic rocker
"Graffiti Hustle," on which Marcus plays tour guide and
shows us around Philadelphia in all its sonic splendor.
The record changes pace with the trippy trance/dance "Subway
Transmissions," hearkening back to Zen Guerrilla's East
Coast infancy some
ten years ago, and "Evening Sun," a slow dance number
that's probably already a staple on classic rock stations.
the boys wised up and threw on a live track: "Fingers,"
the definitive cut from the best rock 'n' roll band IN
THE WORLD and the number one blues song of the new century.
It's an example of the ZG formula working to full effect:
Andy Duvall and Carl Horne lay down rock-solid rhythm
over which Millman's hollow-bodied empty-heart guitar
wails, screams, stutters and sighs. The guy obviously
plays heavy metal in his dreams, but awake, channels Bo
Diddley and the same ol' Chuck Berry stuff everybody uses.
But he's possessed by something more--some autistic devil
or angel that given a chance, will possess you, too.
there's Marcus. Six foot seven inches of Howlin' Wolf
shakin' his hands at the heavens, at you, and is my bet
for the second coming. An MC5 messiah, filled with all
the soul the state of Delaware or even Pennsylvania could
muster. Groupie chic I know, who's the keyboardist for
the New Hot Indie Things, marveled at a one-night stand
with Marcus, sayin', "Did ya know his father is black?"
Well, my point exactly. This guy's got black-as-night
blues in his bowels and is given to bellowing about it
all night long. This rock quivers, cooks and shakes. And
what it does to the female of the species is damn near
is born again. Hallelujah!
"[Scared of Chaka's music
with a connoisseur's taste
for coherence that, like super sex,
leaves you sooo satisfied,
a few hours later ya just gotta do
SCARED OF CHAKA
platter fresh outta Seattle and sporting a similar vaguely
simian theme (Chaka-Guerrilla-gorilla, got it?) has
my netherlands all swelled-up baboon-style and the distant
control center wondering what is up with that town?!
It's been comfortably yupp-and-coming, frothing with
money and latté foam, for much of the last decade.
Then all of a sudden they have riots and earthquakes
and bands like Scared of Chaka.
monkeys from Chaka have got an equally kinetic, not-to-be-missed
live show; but where Zen Guerrilla excels in the testimonial
and the transcendent, these boys got songwriting fortitude
unseen in the underground for fifteen years. Lead guy
Yanul Hernandez knows his pop rocks and is a guitar
virtuoso to boot: I once heard him embellish Mickey
and Sylvia's 1957 classic "Love is Strange" à
la Johnny Thunders! Now Hopeless has released what is
threatened to be the last Scared of Chaka bit o' wild
heaven, and it is PERFECT. Crossing with Switchblades
is the record of the year.
band's long-standing identity crisis between rollicking
balls-out punk rock and sugary pop paeans to Blondie,
Devo and the MC5 results in an incredibly listenable
mix: half zippy punk fun with pop rave-ups and half
juicy pop with a punk snarl. And whereas most bands
deliver a strong single or two couched in so much filler,
Scared of Chaka gives us a true album. From "Atomic"
start to "I Don't Wanna" finish, Crossing with Switchblades
screams and throbs with such addictive pleasures
that ya can't take yer headphones off. It's sequenced
with a connoisseur's taste for coherence that, like
super sex, leaves you sooo satisfied, but a few hours
later ya just gotta do it again.
is also one of the best break-up records since X
was imploding. The mood vacillates between frenetic
screamers like "Girls Like You," "You're Fired" and
"Shake It," a James Brown karaoke bit by a psychopath
(that'd be drummer Ron Skrasek), and expertly crafted
sad love songs like "Why Are You Weird?," "My New One"
and "Who's to Know." And these Chaka love songs are
the kind that get girls starin' bleary-eyed at the wall,
wondering, wishing, "Is this song about me?" And the
indecipherable lyrics will never tell.
2001 X Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. copyright | trademark | legal notices