Sometimes, I wonder why I like Zeus.
Now, I don’t love Zeus. I don’t dislike Zeus, and they certainly don’t stand for anything polarizing enough that it’s plausible for someone to hate them. I wonder why I like Zeus because I fucking hate the seventies. And Zeus fucking loves the seventies.
The seventies are, without a doubt, my least favourite decade in the history of modern popular music. I’ll show you why. Here’s a list, pulled completely at random from the back of a Rolling Stone issue I had lying nearby, of the top ten best-selling singles from the week of October 7th, 1976:
Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band – “A Fifth of Beethoven”
Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music”
Boz Scaggs – “Lowdown”
Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots – “Disco Duck (Part 1)”
Chicago – “If You Leave Me Now”
Cliff Richard – “Devil Woman”
Orleans – “Still The One”
England Dan and John Ford Coley – “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”
KC and the Sunshine Band – “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty”
Daryl Hall and John Oates – “She’s Gone”*
Now, you look me in the eyes and tell me what kind of a world lets, nay, elects – with their own hard-earned dollars – Walter Murphy and the Big Fucking Apple Band to the top of the charts, with a song called “A Fifth of Beethoven”, no less.
Keep in mind, this is before there was really any way to steal music, beyond stuffing records into your trench coat. So, this is actually reflective of what people listened to back then. Boz Scaggs, Orleans, England Dan; they chose to put this in their ears.**
Zeus, however, loves that weird, alien decade with all of their hearts, and they wear that love on their sleeve. And then they take that sleeve and aggressively wipe your nose with it, even though you just said, “It’s cool, I’ve got some Kleenex” and then they did it anyway and were like, “We just wanted to make sure you saw it.”
It blows my mind, though, how they manage to keep that from being a bad thing. I guess this is how you can tell when an artist really, really loves something: they recognize that what they love is flawed, figure out how they might be able to fix it, and then try to bring a closer-to-perfect version of it into the world. That’s a very real, intense kind of love.***
Zeus cherry pick, and they’re very good at it. There’s a little bit of Foghat here, a little bit of Three Dog Night there, and a lot of Wings all over the place, but it’s all very fun. The songs, for the most part, never try to occupy too much space, but they don’t float away either; these guys are anything but unfocused songwriters. They probably find the idea of an album-side length sound odyssey abhorrent, and that’s good news for all of us.
Busting Visions, as with the band’s 2009 full-length debut, Say Us, has a few songs that quite clearly rise to the top; this is a band that was probably raised on the Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-78 rather than Fly Like An Eagle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they consciously decided which songs were going to be singles before they even wrote them. “Strong Mind” has an awesomely disorienting two-guitar breakdown refrain, and “Hello Tender Love” so perfectly mimics the sound of Paul McCartney’s Ram to Band On The Run period that it’s a little eerie. “Are You Gonna Waste My Time” is the lead track and the lead single, and it’s easy to see why: it kicks off with intertwining stuttering guitar lines, and we’ve all been conditioned well enough by decades of rock n’ roll music to know that this is shorthand notice for a big, shiny chorus and swaggering transposed solos. There’s even a brief drum fill that has been filtered through a chorus effect.
It’s also an obvious killer for their live set, I’m sure. I’ve seen Zeus once; they were on a day-long festival bill a couple of years ago where Pavement was headlining. If I remember correctly, they were only the third band up that day. It was barely noon, and that’s a tough spot for a band to do anything with, but I just remember being surprised at how much fun I was having already. They nailed every vocal harmony, which was impressive, but the truly cool thing was how they managed to win over the – at that point – small, bored crowd. And they didn’t really do much more than strum, sing, and smile, man.
© Justin Santelli, Music Vice
* Disclaimer: This song is actually awesome. Hey. Don’t give me that. It just is.
** Disclaimer #2: I know that this may come across as an extremely subjective and perhaps pointless judgment. “Well, what do you think of the charts today? Surely you don’t think they are much better”, to which I say, yes, you have a point, but you can’t listen to “Disco Duck” and honestly tell me that this wasn’t an exceptionally confused time in American history.^
*** Although, when you think about it too hard, it does start to seem like a highly conceptual form of necrophilia, so maybe just don’t think about it too hard.
^ Note: And don’t call me Shirley.^^
^^ Note #2: (Sigh) I hate myself, I really do.
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