Is Everybody Listening?
10th February 2015 – Century Media Records
02. Lonely Souls
04. Zero Point Seven
05. Right Words
06. Innocent Eyes
London quintet Zoax are fast becoming known for their light-hearted but hard-hitting live shows. Musically adept, with a stage presence head and shoulders above many more experienced live acts, “Zoax are joax” – as the band’s merchandise reads – is nevertheless probably the main thing you’ll take away from seeing them perform. We’ve waxed lyrical about the many virtues of frontman Adam Carroll, whose disposition of Daryl Palumbo meets George Bernard Shaw is both electric and entertaining, but in reality their work is the result of five talented guys pulling in the same direction, and their new EP Is Everybody Listening? is further testament to one of the most exciting young rock acts in the UK right now.
“?” sounds like a cut from Glassjaw‘s Coloring Book EP, and strengthens the comparisons between Carroll and Palumbo even further – but between the bands too. It’s so deliciously “Black Nurse“, but without the air of aggression or desperation that pervades much of Glassjaw’s music. This is more of an intro to the EP than anything; a check to make sure that, indeed, everybody is listening. Is everybody listening? Good.
Then, as much as “Bitter. Angry. Fake.” was for debut XIII, “Lonely Souls” is the kick in the teeth that launches a carousel of highs, lows and queuing up for repeat rides. It’s a little odd at first – the bounding energy of its intro, all growls, shouts and angular guitars, breaks into lush, mellow jazz lounge with falsetto vocals. The song switches back and forth between these two styles a couple of times before a climactic ending, and it’s a lot to take in at first, but it’s a right earworm.
The EP follows this pattern to various degrees throughout. “Click” is full-bodied and warm your throat, like a good whisky. It smacks you around the chops with its main riff, then drops off into twinkly, off-beat sections, punctuated by heavy chords, and Carroll switches between throaty roars and clean singing at the drop of a hat.
“Zero Point Seven” is a full-on galloping, frenetic gurning number, and is followed by closing pair “Right Words” and “Innocent Eyes“, which ramp up the emotion; slowing the pace, and expanding the EP’s depth yet further. The former of the two broils and stews in its own introspective nature, whilst the latter is a lament on lost innocence with a beautifully sung repeating refrain of “innocent eyes; what is left of you?” It feels like the sonic sibling of XIII‘s “Mind Games“, tying the two EPs together pleasingly.
Standing back from the EP, it’s a heady piece of work. When people talk about progressive music, thoughts generally turn to fretboard histrionics and needing LSD to comprehend the drumming patterns, but Zoax’s progression stems more from their choice of techniques and sounds – however rudimentary – to achieve exactly what they set out to do. There’s plenty to think about, even after 20-odd listens; straight up rock and roll this is not.
What’s more, Zoax are doing everything that their more prominent contemporaries are doing, but without ever copying them. There are touches of letlive., Glassjaw, Thrice – but with big, broad splashes of their Zoax’s own colour and identity, and coupled with their already flawless live presence, more like this EP should see them go far.