Zounds – ‘The Redemption of Zounds’

(album, Overground)

After the best part of thirty years, it’s good to have another Zounds album to put next to their excellent debut The Curse of Zounds. Better still, Redemption achieves what so few post-reformation albums manage and remains consistent with the band’s original sound while being progressive enough to lift the reconstituted combo significantly above the level of any sense of being a mere nostalgia trip.

When I spoke to Zounds mainman Steve Lake a couple of months ago, I asked him what his 2011 self would say to the younger version responsible for such memorable songs as ‘This Land’, ‘Dirty Squatters’ and ‘Demystification’. ‘You’re an idiot’, came an answer which, although most people would view their earlier selves as naive, indicates the songwriter’s tendency toward critical self-evaluation. Although this is kinda harsh on 1981 Steve (after all, Zounds, like The Mob, Omega Tribe, and Rubella Ballet, were at the forefront of a special cadre of groups that sought to progress the anarcho punk milieu beyond the confrontational black clad template established by Crass and seized upon by the likes of Conflict and Flux), such an analytical perspective does act as a guard against complacency.

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Similarly, Lake’s self-awareness enables him to look inside himself to evaluate his position as an outsider – as is particularly evident in ‘Damage’ and ‘What Makes A Man A Man Today (slight return)’. As author Colin Wilson posits in his landmark work, The Outsider, it is often the case that an individual chooses to remove himself from the mainstream of society because he or she either feels nothing, or feels too acutely. Given his knack for deliquescing global political issues down to a deeply evocative personal level, it is likely that the latter applies to Steve. Additionally, Lake’s fractured, emotive voice is the perfect instrument for delivering songs that crackle with poignancy and humanity, and this, along with a tightly ordered rhythm section of Pauls O’Donnell and Gilbert has ensured that the new material is projected onto a fitting sonic canvas.

Although none of Redemption’s ten songs would sound out of place on The Curse of Zounds, the aforementioned sense of progress is evident through lyrics that propel Lake’s lyrical ideas into the present, a technical sure-footedness and well-directed breadth of musical influences, and Ceiren Bell’s sleeve art, which references contemporary Britain while retaining subtle visual links with the band’s earlier incarnation. Fitting then, that the disc opens with ‘Cry Genie Cry’, a track which, through its use of the ‘Jean Genie’ motif and lyrical content, connects past with present to recount a lifetime of marginalisation in an affecting manner. It’s also as catchy as crabs.

Sonically reminiscent of ‘Subvert’, ‘Supermarche’ is classic Zounds, aiming a broadside at global capitalism without preaching, its emphasis firmly rooted in the impact that capitalist imperialism has on the individuals that it exploits. Likewise, ‘Make Love Not War’ emerges as an urgent, garage infused extension of this mindset, focusing as it does upon the indefensible human cost of nationalist posturing. A form of trilogy is completed by ‘Another Roadside Attraction’ – reminiscent of ‘Biafra’, the track is a mid-paced slow detonation of passion and humanitarianism that reduces militarism to the level of childhood war games.

In addition to exploring the position of the existential outsider within the modern maelstrom of media manipulation, ‘What Makes A Man A Man Today (slight return)’ adds subtle mutated elements of dub to the stew, as instruments drop out and return to great effect, elevating the track to an almost transcendent extent. ‘What Is It Worth’ provides another testament to Zounds’ sonic cohesion, as glorious textured backing supports an evocation of the fragility of human artifice set against the enduring power of nature.

With ‘Damage’, Lake’s lyrical focus again turns inward, juxtaposing an analysis of his outsider status – which being predicted upon love, renders him vulnerable – against a broader context of an individual seeking to distance themselves from those who seek to despoil the planet.

The final phase of Redemption is ushered in by ‘Follow The Money’, which examines the facile nature of capitalism through a lens of experience and disappointment to create a sanguine, melodica infused, valediction to the modern world. The first of two truly excellent tracks that complete the album, ‘Deportee’ is a soul searing evocation of the life-destroying secondary effect of the war industry. The songs layered vocals and guitars serve to enhance the exponential impact of this affecting song. Finally, the uncluttered, understated brilliance of ‘Waiting For The Clampdown Honey’ provides a simply constructed, but devastatingly effective exploration of our database society.

Thirty years ago, Zounds released several excellent singles and one great album and were, by and large, criminally under-recognised. Today, they’ve issued a fitting addition to their fine corpus of work – Don’t let the same thing happen again.

To Order The Redemption of Zounds direct from Overground Records, click HERE  

Originally posted 2011-07-18 07:20:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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