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Nouveau Popular by At The Zoo

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Reviewed on 26th March 2010.


Nouveau Popular

By At The Zoo

At The Zoo's debut EP is that breed of laid back, melodic ska-punk that replaces aggression and nastiness, with a casual, winding groove that might get you humming along and tapping your foot, but won't have you skanking along like an idiot.

'Love For Granted' and 'Scarlet Harlet' are the strongest of the three tracks. The former's pumping drumbeats and twitchy guitars will leave you with a half-smile on your face (as oppose to a giddy, Less-Than-Jake style grin.) Frontman Dan Thompson's vocals, meanwhile, are a sticking point. His heavily accented, semi-spoken delivery has an everyman charm, but his habit of repeating the same syllable over and over (case in point: "I-I-I-I-I-I-I believe!") is teeth-grindingly annoying. It may ensure 'Love For Granted' sets up basecamp in your skull, but it's a cheap ploy, and ensures that 'Love For Granted' quickly becomes annoying, if over-played. Listen to sparingly.

Thankfully, Thompson drops the strange, bird-like cawing and screeching and is much less irritating on 'Scarlet Harlet.' There's a folkish quality to his ramblings that compliments both his heavily accented vocals, and this song's carnival-inspired beat. Fun and frivolous, although the interlude of voices all lamenting "whoa-oh-oh-oh!" that crops up mid-song, really does feel like it has been beamed in from outer space and has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the song.

The EP's weakest moment, is 'Non-Conformist,' a song that never really gets going. The knocking drumbeats and flickers of spiky guitar, seem to be building towards some suitably ska-punk rabble-raising, but the closest we ever get to this is a short, stunted rush of guitars, before 'Non-Conformist' drops us back into those mid-tempo verses. Once again, Thompson labours too hard for that twitchy ska vocal, and becomes just plain annoying. Far from the best ska song you'll ever hear, but enjoyable enough while it lasts.

'Love For Granted' and 'Scarlet Harlet' are worth a spin if you're in the mood for a bit of light, melodic ska - just don't expect any aggression or crazy, skank-worthy grooves. This is a chilled-out, summery interpretation of ska.



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