Whether its a personal fear or a genuine paradigm shift, it seems that shoegazing, effects-drowned, lo-fi pop has entirely overwhelmed the recent musical landscape. But damn if Zulu Pearls
don’t inspire hope for humanity’s musical future. This is rock music, free of adjectival modification. The guitars chime with lightly distorted punch, and Zach Van Hoozer’s quasi-snarling vocals still have plenty of melodic invention — and (gasp
) understandable lyrics!
That last bit might sound jaded and cynical, but No Heroes No Honeymoons provides a good tonic for modern rock déjà vu. Van Hoozer’s blending of genres is distinctly of the present, sounding simultaneously like it’s from many different decades and like no time at all. As nearly every mention of the band has noted, Zulu Pearls somehow revels in the past without falling victim to nostalgic retro-mining.
“Whatever You Want” illustrates this paradox perfectly, upbeat strumming and lively bass producing a reggae feel. Slow, surf rock guitar incongruously combines with a gritty riff as it invades the sonic spectrum. That ’60s surf sound is Zulu Pearls’ most distinctive marker, and the album constantly exploits the trope. This is especially true on slower tunes like the sexy “Honeyland”, with its vocals couched in indie-rock coolness, or the airy, slick psych-garage of “Two Thousand Whatever”. Van Hoozer re-imagines past styles with a newfound rock freshness, more than once recalling Television, though without Tom Verlaine’s guitar chops.
What the album lacks is a verifiable hit, and as it winds down, a single mean guitar solo would liven things up (although the aggressive punk of “Magic Tricks” is a welcome refresher in the final third). Van Hoozer abandoned the States in 2009 to move to Berlin, perhaps because the zeitgeist of excessive synths and pedals wasn’t right for Zulu Pearls. Germany allowed Van Hoozer to refine his sound, and this debut LP marches out confidently on its own, announcing its strident autonomy (No Heroes) and the hard years spent perfecting his DIY rock (No Honeymoons).
Essential Tracks: “Whatever You Want”, “Honeyland”, and “Magic Tricks”