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Ceremony - Zoo

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Artist: Ceremony

Album: Zoo

Label: Matador

Review date: Apr. 4, 2012

Ceremony’s previous records showed an increasing interest in breaking the hardcore mold, but Zoo is a total departure from anything resembling traditional punk rock. Zoo isn’t Fucked Up’s populist bombast or The Men’s deliberately unfocused experimentalism; it’s an attempt at nailing a specific garage/post-punk hybrid. Specifically, Zoo gestures towards the snotty-yet-emotive bravado of The Hunches, in addition to the repetition and starkness of Wire and their British cohorts.

Gesturing, though, is just about all it does. Most of Zoo sounds as if Ceremony went down a bulleted list of those bands’ most distinguishing qualities, mixed them with playing hardcore at one-third speed, and called it a day. As it turns out, a stab at mixing Bridge 9-style hardcore’s hilarious lack of nuance with minimalist post-punk that consists of little besides nuance ends up being about as ill-advised as it sounds. Vocalist Ross Farrar has abandoned his 1980s-NYHC style for a preening, affected shout that’s completely free of any character. Ceremony’s rhythm section, rather than taking the approach of creatively filling the gaps in plodding, often-atonal arrangements, plays it about as straight as possible.

Genre formalism aside, Zoo is boring, and reeks of an “if we sound like this, we’ll be taken seriously” sensibility that’s way more of a bummer than any lack of Peter Hook basslines. It’s tough to blame anybody for finding the ’80s-hardcore formula restricting, but in terms of breaking away from the formula’s conventions, Zoo comes across as Ceremony protesting too much.

By Joe Bernardi

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