The Zombies Are Coming
? OKAY, SO IT’S NOT REALLY THE ZOMBIES. If it were the Zombies, it would include bassist Chris White, who wrote many of my favorite Zombies songs, most especially the ineffable “Beechwood Park.”
“Beechwood Park” is the sound of a love dream gone all misty with warm summer rain, shot through with late-afternoon sunlight gilding it along the edges. Jesus fucking Christ, it’s sad and beautiful. It’s on the 1968 album Odessey & Oracle, which is one of the better rock & roll albums recorded. Ever. Though you can’t put a price on such things, we may safely say that Odessey & Oracle is a bargain (at $15 on Amazon). The Zombies do “Beechwood Park” live in their concerts now, and they do it proud. Lead singer Colin Blunstone has an exquisite voice that has not changed since the ’60s, when he sang this song and the more familiar ones like “She’s Not There,” “Time of the Season,” et al.
And despite the absence of Chris White — who wore the most hideous nerd glasses ever, ever — the version of the Zombies now touring is worth seeing. Rod Argent is not to be dismissed. This man led one of the great British Invasion bands and recorded the first, if not definitive, version of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You.” That’s some pretty big potatoes in my book. (My editor would like to remind us, Argent and White also co-wrote “Hold Your Head Up,” which I am made to believe is a feminist anthem.) And as mentioned, Blunstone’s a wonder. You have numerous nostalgia tours to choose from these days, but the Zombies’ shows are special. Perhaps because they never had massive success in the States — or anywhere, really — they tend to play modest venues here, with a live show entirely focused on the act of playing music extremely well. And because they broke up before Odessey & Oracle’s U.S. release, the Zombies never got a chance to wear these songs out; there’s a freshness to their performance of these songs — or there was the last time I saw them, anyway — that’s unique among bands of that era. In fact, when I saw them a couple years ago, it was only the second or third time they had ever performed “Beechwood Park” onstage.
Doing a Google search on Ye Olde Internet, I discovered that terminal smarty-pants Beck used to cover “Beechwood Park” live at his concerts. Granted, you can’t believe anything you read on the Internet, but supposedly Beck would introduce the song by saying, “You probably haven’t heard this song. I love this song. This is my summer anthem.” (Again, that’s according to some Beck obsessive on the Internet.) Don’t you love how Beck seems to assume you don’t know the Zombies? Love that. Yes, Beck, you’re the only one who knows and loves “Beechwood Park.” I am sure it has special meaning for you, since Beachwood Canyon is located so close to the Scientology Celebrity Centre right there on Franklin Avenue.
Don’t get me started on that shit.
Little Steven Van Zandt’s Underground Garage presents the Zombies (Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent), Phantom Planet, the Mooney Suzuki, the Woggles and the Holograms, Wed., Sept. 6, at the Avalon.
? EVER SO BRIEFLY: I have listened to a bunch of brand-new music lately and found most of it disappointing. However, I have found a couple albums that while not my thing may give you some pleasure, depending on your taste. One of those is Ratatat, a duo from Brooklyn who make instrumental, largely electronic music with an intelligent, melodic rock & roll heart. In that sense, they are the grandkids of Kraftwerk and lil’ brothers (yeah, why not) to Beck. Their song “Wildcat” features a sample of a jungle cat’s howl such as one might have heard on a car commercial or Wild Kingdom in the 1970s, when jungle cats were all the fever. Ratatat are stylish and slightly ironic without being too pretentious; they also play harmonized electric guitars so, obviously, they can’t be all bad. They only half jokingly titled their brand-new album Classics (XL Recordings), and put the face of a big ol’ wild jungle cat on the cover. Best of all, this is the sort of instrumental/electronic-type shit that does not require one to be a KCRW person or a bong collector to appreciate.
Ratatat play Wed., Sept. 20, at the Troubadour.
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