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Zen Guerilla | Shadows on the Sun | review | rock | Lollipop
Shadows on the Sun (Sub Pop)
by Jon Sarre
After three hopelessly long'n'bitter'n'fucked nights of little sleep'n'killin' meself wit' too much good times, I arrived home to find this thing in my mailbox and tho' it sure beats bills'n'ad circulars, I was too dazed to appreciate it, but threw it on anyhow and left it in for the next four days, one or two of which featured livin' sorta normally and hey, I've said it before and I'll say it again, Zen Guerrilla is the best rock'n'roll band on the planet (or any other planet or just plain plane) workin' right fuckin' now. Shadows on the Sun is their second full-length for Sub Pop and their fifth or sixth overall, but that don't, uh, mellow 'em out or nothin' like that, cuz there's nothin' mellow about their nitro-burnin' freight car derailment plan ('cept in the freaky skip groove electro soul sputters of "Subway Transmission" and the gasp [!] slow dancey "Evening Sun" - a first for ZG).
The Zen Guerrilla guys, Marcus Durant, Rich Millman, Carl Horne'n'Andy Duvall thrash right up to the plate with "Barbed Wire," which is the sorta fucked-up speed-damaged blues they open their shows with, y'know, awe-inspirin' smile-poppin' sonic explosions, where if ya close yer eyes real tight, ya can see various hallucinatory constellations. On the next cut, "Inferno," a desperate soundin' Marcus shouts out "Tell me what you want" or "Tell me what you are" like he's in some old Robert Johnson song and Lucifer hisself is bangin' on the door and Durant knows who the hell it is, but he just wantsta play dumb cuz he just doesn't wanna go just yet. Then on "Staring Into Midnite," Rich lets fly one of his patented face-shake distorto solos that makes ya wonder if he made a deal with the devil to be able to do shit like that.
After that, they blow thru "Smoke Rings," a blues dirge that's the closest approximation anyone's ever heard of Black Sabbath with Al Green on the mic. Then Andy beats down his skins 'til ya figure the poor Ludwigs or whatever are bouncin' all over the studio and Marcus calls out Philly landmarks like he's homesick or lost or somethin'. "Captain Infinity" is the theme song for a superhero yet to be invented, 'less Marcus has an alterego (was he bitten by a radioactive hedgehog, I dunno, but one time my cat pissed on Carl's sleeping bag, sorry, man) and yeah, he's right when he observes "Everyone's so wacked out." Ya got "Dirty Mile," the meat betwixt the above mentioned mellow tunes and it's, yeah, rocked-out blues played w-a-a-a-a-y too fast. After that, Marcus'n'Rich go over the top with a blender-driven guitar solo and vox hits Wagnerian scream ranges, whilst Andy'n'Carl keep 'em from spontaneously combustin' with a steel chain rhythm section lasso.
Roundin' out the record, y'all're treated to "Jeepster" played by a rockabilly band, then turned out with hand claps'n' "ho ho ho ho"s into a gospel choir bit from some freaky church'n'Marcus testifyin' about how he only really wants to have a good time ("Where's My Halo?"). Then "Shadows" know yer name'n'black widows guest on country blooze arrangements & "Zombies and Hobos" hang around long enough to share human flesh'n'cheap port. The closer, "Fingers," is originally offa their Positronic Raygun platter, presented here live at Zen Guerrilla's greasy best, runnin' thru their derrango soul punkrock travellin' medicine show paean to lackin' digits. I tell ya, more fun than a barrel fulla whiskey saturated primates!
(PO Box 20645 Seattle, WA 98102)