Monday, May 09, 2005

 

Joy Zipper's Other New Album


Joy Zipper are now inhabiting parallel universes. If you go to their US website, you can read all about their new CD American Whip. If you go to their UK website, you can read all about their new CD The Heartlight Set.

How this all came to be is kind of complicated and I've explained it before. Still, this US/UK split seems like a weird way to handle things, given, you know, the internet. The band is currently touring the US, and I'm wondering how exactly they're dealing with the whole situation (how do you promote a two-year-old "new" album when you have a real new album available in another country). A concert review here describes them playing "a brand new song called 'Window' that has yet to be recorded" (it's not brand new and it's been recorded twice now) but I can't tell if the band is lying to their audience or if the reviewer is just misinformed.

The Heartlight Set seems a little too unfocused to get Joy Zipper a major publicity upgrade. The CD opens up with Go Tell The World's drumbeat sounding for all the world like Gary Glitter until Tabitha Tindale comes in singing with her angry voice (the one that sounds like Kim Deal) and for a short while I was thinking that this was going to be the "the drugs wore off" record where Joy Zipper rock out. Not exactly a direction that I expected or wanted the band to pursue, but interesting enough.

For the most part, though, the opening is a false start. The album quickly settles back into a mix of mellow-ish ballads and American Whip style fuzz-touched drones (one track sounds almost exactly like a mix of Summer In The City with Spacemen 3's Hey Man). If you've been collecting EP's, you'll recognize revamped and slightly improved versions of several familiar tracks: 1, 2 Dreams I Had and Window. There's at least one mostly acoustic ballad (You've Changed) that sounds almost like a bid for mainstream radio, with Vinny's thin voice, the failure to go into a hard-rocking 3rd verse, and a sudden unexpected transformation into Sweet Home Alabama being the only things holding it back from world domination. Not bad, actually, though surprisingly normal.

The only spot where the wacko Joy Zipper that I first met really surface is on the wonderful For Lenny's Own Pleasure, which sounds like it comes straight from their first album: no chorus, oddball druggy lyrics delivered in Tabitha's happy voice, and an unfocused trajectory that seems like it could go on indefinitely, in a timeless smoking-pot-in-your-parents'-basement sort of way.

There's some strong material here, together with a few tracks that sound disturbingly stripped of most of the quirks that make this band such a source of fascination for me: sans quirks, Joy Zipper can get awfully close to post-Breeders 90's alt. girl rock and/or California 1970's singer songwriter. The overt My Bloody Valentine-isms of American Whip are mostly gone, other than the odd echo here and there. Kind of hard to make sense of what the group is up to here, though that probably describes everything they've ever done.

If you don't yet know Joy Zipper, I'd probably lean towards American Whip as a better introduction. If you're a fan, Heartlight Set is definitely worth picking up, though Americans might want to wait for a domestic release. On the other hand, given this band's history with record labels, it might be wise to jump on the import when it comes out in June. Who can say.



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