As far as post-punk goes, the more abrasive, the better. Keep the melodies jagged, the structure non-linear and toss out anything conventional. It worked for Wire. It worked for Gang of Four. But for contemporary bands, embracing the late-seventies post-punk aesthetic has really only resulted in a slew of re-hashed ideas and all-too similar sounding records. In some cases (like VHS or Beta’s “No Cabaret” and Radio 4’s “Dance to the Underground”), not only are the melodies and beats similar, but so is the lyrical subject matter. For purposes of listening, these similarities can be overlooked as most of these bands are pretty good, regardless. But to keep a dying genre alive, it needs a breath of fresh air. It needs new ideas. So what post-punk really needed was Austin’s Zykos.
How Zykos is pronounced is anyone’s guess (“psychos” spoken by the white-suited Zima spokesman?), but as a band, they’re doing things with post-punk that really should have happened a long time ago, but didn’t. Zykos play loud rock music, the kind that could have fit in with the eighties underground, but with touches of melancholy, the likes of which fit in better with bands like Sigur Ros and Radiohead. The Texas quintet’s self-titled second album finds them balancing extremes of harsh guitar rock and delicate beauty, edging away from conventional post-punk with the addition of Rhodes, piano, trumpet and other instruments not often found in a Rapture song.
Zykos can take on abrasive rock, as heard in songs like “Mrs.” and “Above the Map,” augmented well by Michael Booher’s Britt Daniel-meets-Billie Joe Armstrong-meets-a vocoder growl. Yet “Hand Stand” and the piano-driven anthem “George Eliot” sees Zykos approaching U2-like levels of epic heroism. And then there’s “Disappearing Act,” an organ-happy pop songs that sounds a lot like hometown contemporaries Spoon. Thanks to this diversity of sound, the two Michaels, two Ja(e)rods and a Catherine have been able to share stages with the likes of such far-reaching bands as Cursive, TV on the Radio, Explosions in the Sky and Okkervil River.
Maybe calling Zykos “post-punk” isn’t exactly the right description, though in terms of a new post-punk movement, Zykos would be the frontrunners. Zykos delivers great songs with a fresh approach and much in the way of accessibility. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there isn’t anything out there like them, but as far as I’m concerned, there just aren’t enough that are.
Spoon – Girls Can Tell
Hint Hint – Young Days
Sunny Day Real Estate – How It Feels To Be Something On
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.