Sometimes you need to start at the end to get to the beginning… Such is the case with the new album by a group called Those Pretty Wrongs — Zed for Zulu — slated for release at the beginning of September.
By starting at the end I kind of mean that in this instance I just listened to the record (which was sent to me for review consideration) without really reading the press release and getting lost in the considerable aura of its players. Instead, I just let the music do the talking.
On the first listen I liked Zed for Zulu well enough but by the third spin, songs like “The Carousel” were jumping out at me as bona fide great “keepers” in the realm of all things jangly, harmonic and power pop. The hook to the “dream away, we are just a dream away” chorus is as good as pop choruses get.
Moving towards the middle, I only recently discovered singer and guitarist Luther Russell recently when I reviewed his most recent album which I really loved. You can click on the link here to take you to my review from several months back. On Zed for Zulu Russell sounds like the missing link between The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn (“Chestnut Mare”-era) and Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow.
Heading towards the beginning …. of course the presence of Big Star’s original drummer Jody Stephens on these tracks — both as a cowriter of the songs, producer and performer — gives this album a certain instant credibility. So much so that fans of Big Star and all the groups that they influenced – – from REM to The dBs – – will want to check this out immediately!
Speaking of The dBs, it’s important to note that Chris Stamey himself provided the lush string arrangements for the “Tonight Tonight Tonight” on Zed for Zulu. For those of you not in the know, Stamey released the first solo single by Big Star cofounder Chris Bell — “I Am The Cosmos” — and then also did some good work with the other half of the Big Star equation: Alex Chilton. Stamey, of course went on to be the Music Director for the acclaimed touring ensemble known as Big Star’s Third (and yes, I also reviewed them here).
And finally then going back to the beginning I found it really touching to learn from the aforementioned press release that Chris Bell’s original Gibson ES 330 guitar and HiWatt amplifier — which were used on the first Big Star album, #1 Record – – are actually used on this recording, particularly on the power pop song “You and Me.”
So like I said Zed for Zulu is a grower but it’s a quick study, so with each listen my fondness for it has grown considerably. You should check out the album when it’s released in early September on Burger Records.
You can hear several tracks from the album (pre-released as singles) which are streaming up on Tidal in CD quality: “Time To Fly,” “A Day In The Park,” “Its About Love” and “Ain’t Nobody But Me.” I was happy to also find the first eponymously titled album by Those Pretty Wrongs on Tidal (click here). What a joy to find new music like this hiding right under my nose all this time.
This is good stuff… I probably need to get these on vinyl soon.