You, me, the music, and me.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

THE ZULUS Down on the Floor

Slash 92 58281 (1989)

If only the Zulus had come along a little later than they did; listening to their sole LP release Down on the Floor, the group sounds like it would have made a perfect companion to bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam on the airwaves of only a few years later. The album's bluesy, hard-rock sound would prove to be a foreshadowing of the grunge nirvana to come.

I picked this up on a whim at a record sale at the Dalhousie University Student Union building in Halifax in the early nineties for one dollar (still sealed and brand new). As I played it, I experienced the joy of discovery that so many music collectors cherish, that of finding something new and unheard that the general populace had yet to experience (or would ever experience, in this unfortunate case).

The Zulus hailed from Boston and included former members of bands such as Human Sexual Response and Wild Kingdom. The album was produced by Bob Mould (of Husker Du and Sugar fame; he also wrote the theme to The Daily Show); that and the fact that it was on the super-cool Slash label were more than enough to convince me to give it a try.

Initially, the most striking things about the band's music are the virtuosic, bluesy guitar riffs by Rich Gilbert and Larry Bangor's yelping, impassioned vocals. Listen closer and you'll hear some of the strongest songwriting of any rock record of the eighties; there is literally not a bad song on the album. Songs like "Never Again" and "Skinny Dip" feature Gilbert's twisted blues-rock inversions and Bangor's howling tales of love gone wrong atop the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Rich Cortese and drummer Malcolm Travis (who would go on to play with Mould in Sugar). "Big D" is a slow, smoldering blues that sounds like a great, lost Led Zeppelin outtake circa 1977, and "Gotta Have Faith" closes the record in a raging wash of feedback a la Husker Du.

In the music business, sometimes timing is everything. Time wasn't on the side of the Zulus, but their only record is well worth searching for. It's currently out of print on CD, so scour those yard sales and used record stores.


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