The last time I wrote about Jim Elkington and his Zincs, I heard something that few other critics mentioned much about: an innate and suppressed desire to turn up the volume, speed up the pace and play honest-to-goodness rock `n’ roll. At the time it was subtle, much like everything else on the album; subtlety is Elkington’s business after all. But it was there. Even contemporaries like Andrew Bird and Richard Hawley undergo similar bouts of amped up energy, even more so. With The Zincs, however, the promise of any serious tension release was rarely fulfilled, only dangled gently near the listener’s eager and astute ears.
With Black Pompadour, the Zincs’ second full-length album, the group has expanded, the sound has broadened, and the hint of a legit, volume loving rock band comes to fruition. As I did in my last installment, I should point out that The Zincs only gently nod toward Marshall stack destroying rock. They’re still sophisticated and sleek, displaying well the combination of Britpop and Chicago indie pop that one might come to expect from such a combo. It jangles, it shuffles, it stomps and it rumbles. No more hinting around this time, Elkington and his crew get straight to business and let their amplifiers do the talking.
The most telling signifier of the shift comes almost immediately, with the buzzing organ and slightly distorted riffs in opener “Head East, Kaspar.” As the song shifts from intro to verse, it picks up momentum, maintaining an energetic and lively pace while Elkington sings odd lyrics like “get ready for profanity and grief.” “Coward’s Corral” has an even punkier bent to it, sounding much more like The Pixies with its thudding beats and careening riffs. Bouncing along nicely thereafter comes “Hamstrung and Juvenile,” which comes closer to Stereolab than anything bearing an Albini engineering credit, but the added use of horns lends the song a hearty soulfulness.
Evident in tracks like “Rice Scars” and “Lost Solid Colours,” the low-key chamber pop of Dimmer hasn’t completely disappeared, it’s just not the defining style any longer. Rather, there are songs like “Finished in the Business,” propelled by a marching drum shuffle and shifts between finger-tapped leads and clean, wiry riffs. The jazzy, upbeat waltz of “Burdensome Son” even recalls a smokier, nightclub version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” And that’s pretty damn cool.
Sure, the guy’s still got a way with words, mentioning “Caesarean smiles” and even boasting “I’m so good looking,” at one point, but man, with such a laid back voice, it’s hard for those witty quips to make their way atop the dense grooves. That’s by no means an insult; I just can’t get enough of those serpentine guitar licks and freshly grooving basslines.
Cinerama – Torino
The Divine Comedy – Victory for the Comic Muse
Richard Hawley – Coles Corner
MP3: “Head East, Kaspar”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.