Ordinary people/we do ordinary things/every single day. —Ceremony, "Ordinary People"
I almost gave up on this album after the first two songs,* not because they were bad, but because they weren't quite good enough, but Ceremony won me over with "Repeating the Circle," which pivots on the kind of Jah Wobble bass rumble I can't resist. The gut-bucket drums, barbwire guitar, and mush-mouthed mumbles are a plus. The rest of the record shares sonic territory with Brooklyn's the Men and Melbourne's Total Control in that it's just as loud, dark, and foreboding.
Apparently, old fans are unhappy about the band's move away from their hardcore roots, but I'm all for it. I particularly like the way Justin Davis's bass rumble continues throughout Zoo. It isn't funky; more like swampy, subterranean. At times, singer/songwriter Ross Farrar even recalls Johnny Lydon, circa peak-era Public Image Ltd. (someone's gotta pick up the gauntlet, and he's got the goods), but if the entire project resembled a PiL retread, there'd be no point when you can just listen to The Flowers of Romance...or whichever poison you prefer.
* After a few spins, "Hysteria" (below) and "Citizen" wore down my resistance.
Fortunately, Ceremony still has one foot in the garage. They've got that post-punk attitude, but there's a proto-punk thing going on, too. Half the time I can't tell what Farrar's going on about, but I can feel his frustration. It may just be one big put-on, but I've always prized performance over authenticity, and it's an Oscar-worthy recreation of one little man's rage at a vast, uncaring universe.
Lyrics include jolly lines like, "Hysteria...all we've ever known" and "I'll never be cured." If you always look on the bright side of life, Zoo probably won't be for you..and that includes Peter Greenaway's ZOO...and Robinson Devor's, too.
Then again, it's kind of funny the way these California kids wallow in the primordial muck (I assumed they were from north of England until I read their biography). After spending some time with their fourth full-length and with Farrar's statement about it, I've decided that it isn't a put-on at all, but nor is it as introspective as intended. Either way: I'm happy to buy what they're selling.
Matador releases Zoo on March 6, 2012. The band plays The Vera Project on April 7 (all ages). According to Ceremony's official site: "We do not have a Twitter, MySpace, or Facebook." Keepin' it old school...much like this record.