Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Ceremony - Zoo

Make no mistake about it; Ceremony is one of the best bands in hardcore out there today. Part of what makes this so is their willingness to venture out of their genre’s perceived comfort zones and make changes and go places too many bands wouldn’t. Their debut, 2006’s Violence Violence has a sound equivalent to that title. It couldn’t figure out whether it wanted to be 80’s hardcore or powerviolence, and thankfully it decided to not force itself to choose. And with their next two releases, Still Nothing Moves You and Rohnert Park they continued to expand and flesh out their sound. I’m not going to sit here and say they’re the most original band to ever rear their ugly heads. But Ceremony were able to put themselves in a place where you could pick them out of a lineup. In my mind, that was enough to make them a band to watch.

Rohnert Park saw the band abandoning their more powerviolence tendencies in favor of a more straight ahead 80’s hardcore approach, along with some welcomed experimentation in the form of tracks such as “The Doldrums” and the “In the Wayside” tracks. Zoo, which came out back in March, goes even further away from the hardcore of today into more of a 70’s punk sound. That would all be fine and dandy if the changes Ceremony made on this LP paid off as handsomely as the changes on Rohnert Park did.

What I’m sure was intended to be an act of branching out and experimenting has unfortunately came out of the oven as derivative, lacking in any kind of energy, and frankly pretty damn boring. If you want a small example of this, listen to the first track to drop from this LP earlier this year, “Hysteria”. Unlike an album like Violence Violence, this track does NOT have a sound that even comes close to that title. The “hysteria” that singer Ross Farrar sings about (and repeats again and again and again) isn’t communicated in the slightest with the dime a dozen guitar riff, played at a nice safe tempo, and Farrar’s own lazy vocal delivery that doesn’t come close to the kind of character he showed in the previous three records. Yes I understand this record is shooting for a different sound so therefore the vocals should follow suit, but the character Ross decides to go with is a neutered Johnny Rotten impression that never changes vocal inflection. Not. Once.

And it doesn’t end there. Nearly every track goes down the same exact path, delivering just about the same results. All the ingredients are there: apathetic performances, all-too-familiar guitar riffs and patterns, cliched lyrics, and Ross’ aforementioned vocal “snarl”. “Citizen” takes a liberty of being somewhat faster, and being the only song on here that comes close to hardcore; but unfortunately it just ends up reminding me of bands like Off!, and therefore just making me rather listen to bands like Off!. Every once in a while the band somewhat changes up the formula I guess, but it just goes to show that the band’s idea of experimentation is reduced to simply using clean guitar on “Repeating the Circle”, a delay effect in the middle of “Break Yourself”, having a twangy rhythm on “Quarantine”, and an acoustic guitar section at the end of “Community Service”. All this just hits me as shallow attempts to differentiate a few tracks from the others, and nothing more.

It says alot when a band that started out with the sound that Ceremony did decides to change it up; I always encourage that kind of thing. But the band hits me with no interesting, new, or experimental sounds, and instead decides to travel back in time a little bit. Maybe it’s that I’ve been with punk rock all my life and I’ve heard all the oldies and what they already offer, and Ceremony doesn’t offer up anything outside of that. In fact I think they do away with quite a bit of it. All I can say is that if I wanted to hear an impersonation of The Damned, the Sex Pistols, or Wire — wait, screw the impersonation, I’d rather just hear those bands by themselves. Thanks, but no thanks.

You can buy the album via Matador if I haven't warned you enough.

score: lite 3 (the absolute litest a 3 can get)

(If you wanna hear Robby rant more bout music, check out his YouTube page.)

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