A Bitter Gourd by ZoZoRelease date: November 10, 2017
Label: Hatch Records
ZoZo are a 5-piece “post-punk” band hailing from Leeds; a city currently going through a phase of being saturated by promising new bands. It is rash to tag ZoZo with one label, as they’re nearly unclassifiable, with their stinging guitar sound backed by mazy webs of saxophones and horns. The question is, how do ZoZo stand out amongst this continually expanding crowd and push beyond the buzz often attached to new bands on debut EP, A Bitter Gourd?
Lead single ‘NONO’, proves that ZoZo can iron their idiosyncrasies into a catchy format, all sharp hooks whilst retaining their dense instrumentation. This combination is made even more beguiling with a fine display of frontman Fred’s (no surnames allowed in this band) polemical sermon based approach to singing. A combination of David Byrne absurdism and Jon Cooper Clarke’s deadpan, Fred’s delivery compliments the rest of the band’s performance with wide eyed mania.
Title track, ‘A Bitter Gourd’, is ZoZo in more hypnotic form, opening the EP with overlapping guitar lines that cram in as many notes as possible, whilst being punctuated by that saxophone. This pushes ZoZo beyond being another simplistic guitar band, with the cyclical repetition of the song creating a whirlpool for the listener to get sucked into. Fred’s incantations of “over and over again” eventually build into a sense of mass hysteria, backed by the rest of the band going at full force, showing ZoZo going for the body as well as the mind.
A minor misstep is ‘ONON’, a song that ramps up all ZoZo’s idiosyncrasies to breaking point, the howled vocals of Fred becoming grating; the saxophone becoming reminiscent of Star Wars’ cantina band. ‘ONON’ is made even more jarring, when everything drops out leaving only a careless whisper-esque saxophone, which then whips into a bizarre conclusion. This may be the point of the track; however, it is still slightly too much, and, at worse, may drive listeners away from what is a very good EP.
Final track ‘OZOZ’ ends A Bitter Gourd on a strangely uplifting note with Fred questioning how to be kind in the modern world and just exactly what all that means. If this all sounds a bit much, the gorgeous melody on the chorus should convince you otherwise. Midway through ‘OZOZ’ the track drifts into end-of-set anthem territory, as a brief period of atonal saxophone skronk clicks into a riff destined to erupt crowds. ‘OZOZ’ combines all of ZoZo’s ideas into a magnificent conclusion, a genuine statement of intent and originality from a band that have something to say.
A Bitter Gourd transcends the buzz generated by their previous singles, illustrating that ZoZo have properly arrived. Although there are a few minor caveats, this EP is well worth your consideration and time. A Bitter Gourd is a winning combination of an invigorating sound matched by smart lyrics and great performances, hopefully ZoZo can continue this hot streak in future.