Friday, January 14, 2005

My two favorite reveiws of Zeitgiest echo back to back.

Even In Blackouts
Zeitgeist's Echo (2004)
(Knock Knock)

See Others

Published on January 14th 2005

Even in Blackouts’ first album, Myths And Imaginary Magicians (Myths), was one of the best and most original pop/punk albums to be released during the last five years. Unfortunately, their full-length follow up, entitled Zeitgeist’s Echo is an absolute monstrosity.
I was quite surprised at how difficult Zeitgeist’s Echo was to track down. After re-releasing Myths on Lookout! Records, Even in Blackouts turned to Knock Knock Records for their EP, entitled Foreshadows On The Wall, and have remained with them for their latest effort. Initially, I chalked up the near-unavailability of the new album to poor distribution by their label. After listening to the album several times, however, I’ve revised my theory to account for the hordes of torch-wielding villagers who I expect are hunting down copies and destroying them for the good of mankind.
To be fair, Even in Blackouts shows moments of real growth on Zeitgeist’s Echo. They’ve bolstered their unique “folk-Screeching Weasel” acoustic punk sound with frequent and diverse guest vocals. They’ve also incorporated a wider range of instruments, including piano and cello, into their songwriting. Their doo-wop filled cover of the Clifton’s “One Fine Day” is an interesting standout, as is the maturing talent of singer Lizzie Eldredge who has one of the best voices in punk rock today.
That’s about it for positives.
Songwriting on Zeitgeist’s Echo is handled predominately by guitarist John Jughead and bassist Brad Lipman. Unfortunately, the charm and lyrical cohesion of Myths has completely abandoned the otherwise talented pair. Virtually every song on the album is artless, overwrought and marred by some mind-blowing lyrical bombs. The sarcastic undertone of Myths has also disappeared, replaced by one-dimensional wonders like “I love you and I don’t know what to do, it’s painful to think of you.” I also have to feel awkward for everyone within earshot when the band performs “Curtain Part 1,” which features the jaw-droppingly bad “she had a pussy that could devour, there seemed to be no way to satisfy it.” Not even L7 could make that sound good.
Another odd thing about Zeitgeist’s Echo is the arrangement. There are several bizarre quasi-songs and sound blurbs that repeatedly disrupt the band’s minimal momentum. The only real exceptions are tracks 14-16 which make up the aforementioned 'Curtain' trilogy. Though the trilogy ends on a comparative high note, it’s followed by the forced and out-of-place sounding “Heaven.”
I really wanted to like Zeitgeist’s Echo (indeed, after I wrote a positive review of Myths for this site, Jughead – or someone claiming to be him – emailed me a generous thank you note). There is no question that the band has what it takes to make an amazing album, and if they hang around long enough to put out another album I’ll definitely give it a listen…but I’m afraid I just can’t recommend Zeitgeist’s Echo.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a mob of villagers to help get this thing out of my stereo.


At first when I got this album and looked at the track list, I was like “Oh jeez…17 tracks..this must be an hour long”. That, and judging by the artwork, I was expecting a self-absorbed, flaky rock band with a predilection for Halloween or an obsession with ghosts (Zeitgeist, after all, refers to some sort of ghost in German, and Zeitgeist’s Echo would make a cool name for a band). Even In Blackouts used all their guitar prowess (and trust me, there’s plenty of variation) and beautiful musical composition to win me over. Their sophomore full-length draws on the name of John Jughead of Screeching Weasel and the adept production talent of Mass Giorgini (oh yes, that one, of Queers fame) to drop an accessible record on the punk rock community.

At first, I was really confused when I heard this. Are those acoustic guitars? Indeed they are. Plug those suckers into an amp and, combined with the rash folkiness of Against Me! as well as mountain hippie songwriting, you have the driving guitar base of this band. The pop punk drumming reminds you that yes, this is still a punk band, and not a mutated accident of Ani DiFranco and Green Day. Different instruments abound, with classical guitar on ‘Threshold Opening’, electric guitar, bass, and cello on ‘A Song for..”, and piano on the Writer. I’ll stop there. Jenny Choi reveals her classical training with cello and piano. Even an accordion gets in on the act. This band has found a way to work every kind of rare instrument into the works.
These accompanying parts also provide depth to an already rich sound that barely needs the benefit of extra help, and instead of playing the act of rescuer, only serve to enhance.

The voice and words are what you might find in an indie coffee shop in the mountains (I was thinking Seattle or Asheville, NC), with a lot of folk influence, filtered through a strainer of Sunday worship service. Lizzie Eldredge is fluent in both the intimate tones of the coffee shop poet, and the husky shouts of a punk singer. She shows real talent, straining with intensity at the end of phrases, like in ‘Curtains part 1”. Harmony comes from guest vocalists and other band members, especially a duet with Dan Vapid of the Queers on ‘In A Letter..’. The ‘Curtains’ trilogy of songs turns the tension of relationships into a philosophical critique with a delicious vocal harmony at the end and spoken word throughout the first part. The songwriting is calm and mature, exactly poetry put to song, haunted by images of morning and light, dying and ghosts of relationships past. It’s like they sat down and converted a beautiful painting into musical form.

Although Even in Blackouts may be relatively new, their members bring years of experience to the table with the complexity of Zeitgeist’s Echo. This will infiltrate the scene as a beautiful and unusual band that listeners of all types just can’t help listening to.