Zip Tang – Marcus Padgett (sax, keys, vocals), Rick Wolfe (bass, vocals), Perry Merritt (guitar, vocals) and Fred Faller (drums, percussion)
Somehow, I missed the release of Pank (head buried in the sands of work, no doubt), so I don’t have anything to say about that album, but the band sent me a copy of their 2010 release Feed Our Heads. Man, this band is a totally class act. If you’re the kind of listener who rolls their eyes at “wankery”, “self-indulgence” or “bombast” when it comes to their prog, then you’re gonna love Zip Tang. Well, OK, there’s a little bit of wah wah burbling spaciness in the synths and jazzy sax solos (enough to make me ask if they were Gong fans — they’re not!), and the guitars certainly don’t stick to easy passages or 4/4 time signatures. It might be considered too difficult and attention-demanding by younger listeners who’ve grown up on alt-rock or 2000’s pop stars, but for those who would be reading the GEPR, this is really not hard to listen to at all, very mature and familiar without rehashing the same old jazz or rock stylings. The biggest danger is not noticing the progginess on the first listen because it feels so natural, and then not listening to it again. Don’t do that! Three listens minimum!
My closest comparison would still be to Zappa, though I could also compare them to Umphrey’s McGee in that they are very much modern guitar and rock oriented, rather than ’70’s prog in style. Zip Tang also makes heavy use of vocal harmonies, almost to the point that Gentle Giant comes to mind, though Zip Tang‘s approach is way less classical and less British-sounding. The recording quality on Feed Our Heads is marvelous, every instrument can be heard with crystal clarity.
And, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the lyrical content. Very inventive. “Girl Behind the Glass” is a song either about a peep show patron or a peeping tom expressing his love for a girl he can watch but never have or even touch. But rather than coming across as creepy, I actually feel compassion for the guy. But my favorite is “I’ll Put It Right”, a song about someone making the most outrageous promises from free health care to getting rid of all crime, taxes, bad TV shows and insect annoyances. Oh, yeah, and he’ll create a world religion so we can all live in peace and harmony and have an answer to any question we might ask. Hey, I want this guy for president!
Feed Our Heads isn’t your usual prog album at all, which makes it truly progressive rather than “retro”. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly to mine. I really love this album, as much as I did Luminiferous Ether (even without an ELP cover song), and it will score high on my “Best of 2010” list*. Give it a couple of listens for maximum penetration … it will FEED YOUR HEAD if you do! OK, someone had to say it. — Fred Trafton
* Which I really will get around to compiling one of these days. Hey, I still haven’t heard every 2009 album yet!
Click here for Zip Tang‘s web site
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Click here to order Luminiferous Ether from CD Baby
Click here to order Pank from CD Baby
Click here to order Feed Our Heads from CD Baby