Clark Paull | Murder City | 05/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although The Von Zippers have been around for eight years and have now released three albums for Estrus, as well as numerous 7-inchers, information on the band is harder to find than someone saying the rosary at a Marilyn Manson concert. What's clear is that the band hail from Calgary, Alberta (for the geographically challenged, including myself, that's in Canada) and are described as everything from "middle-aged" to "geezers" (again, that would be me). For now, the identities of its members shall remain a mystery since not even their bio sheet on the Estrus web site mentions their names. Other than providing lyrics and giving up the name of producer Jeff Burns, the CD liner notes are also no help. All Music Guide reckons The Von Zippers are influenced by The Damned and The Anti-Nowhere League (huh?), but those comparisons obviously came out of the ass-end of a computer somewhere. I can't recall ever hearing a harmonica or organ on "Damned Damned Damned" or "We Are The League." Imagine a cross between a young Fleshtones wired on electrical overload and a slightly less polished DMZ and you're nearly there. The Von Zippers continue what is quickly becoming a tradition at Estrus: a three-chord basharama anchored by a slightly unhinged singer (see also The Midnight Evils and The Flying Guillotines). While it's difficult to say where the label finds these guys, it's probably safe to say they're all drinking water that's flowed past a chemical plant. How else to explain "SGWTF," which is lyrically steeped in that grand old rock and roll tradition of lab rats with human ears growing on their backs, or "Insect Idol," which suggests genuflecting to eight-legged rulers of the future. As I'm wont to do, the first time I listened to the 11 white noise excursions which comprise "The Crime Is Now!", I keyed in on the music with little regard for the lyrics and I have to admit the album appeared to have all the brains of a bag of hammers (dumb is good). Then I started reading the lyrics and realized these guys are some deep thinkers, at least to these apolitical ears. "Blue Suit Bullies" takes on the destruction of cities by refineries and the fast food industry, "Common Sense Party Time" challenges Canadian politics and authority in general, and "Put On The Brakes" warns against the use of tax dollars to fuel war machines. Don't let all of this talk about social consciousness scare you away; my idea of political responsibility extends about as far as thinking about voting but somehow never getting around to it, and I love the hell out of this album. The Von Zippers have figured out a way to combine a full-grinding, head-rattling blast of grit with a world view and sense of awareness which stops just short of proselytizing. I say that's a platform we can all get behind. Now if they'd just step forward and identify themselves..."