I first came across Zen Motel on the rather wonderful "Screaming Tarts Volume 3" compilation late last year. That track "Head" is the opening track here and it kicks off the album in mighty fine style. Great guitar riffs, superb vocals and a driving beat that will make you remember the track for all the right reasons, and not just because, even in these enlightened times you don't often hear blokes singing a lyric like "if you had a cock, I'd suck, suck, suck it!"!
Much to my relief, Zen Motel are not one trick ponies as there are plenty of low down and dirty tracks on this CD. The vast majority display great knowledge of how to make a track memorable without resorting to cliché, although to be honest by the time this CD was getting to the last couple of tracks it does sound as if they were running out of ideas and energy. There's nothing hugely original here. Yes, they're using standard ingredients, sing along chorus here, a scuzzy guitar riff there and let's not forget the lead guitar work liberally scattered where required to add sparkle. However, it's not often that they're put together with such panache.
In many ways Zen Motel remind me of Girl in their early days. You may not like them but they KNOW they're great and frankly don't seem to care if you like them or not. They've even got a vocalist that knows how to dress with a certain style whilst making it quite clear that he'd probably make a move on your girlfriend the minute your back was turned.
Track titles like "21st Century Bitch", "Drugstar", "Pissed", "Real Good Time" and "What You're On", will rightly give you the impressions that these guys are likely to be the loveable rogues the girls will want to take home to their mum, who on being presented, will smile sweetly at their daughters choice of men and try not to show their concern too much!
I'm highly amused by the subtle nods to classic 70's glam rock, whether it's the mutant riff from "Telegram Sam" that briefly pops up on "Dress Code Violence" or the Sweet like intro to "Pissed". However, the overall vibe is scuzzy rock 'n' roll the likes of which I never thought that I'd hear from a British band.
Not too surprisingly, I'm not enamoured by the slower numbers. "Honey Ryder" may be wonderfully atmospheric evoking as it does spaghetti westerns of times gone by and in a live environment it no doubt gives the band a breather and the punters a good chance to get back to the bar but when listening to it safely at home it's all just so, well - dull.
Proudly displayed on the
back of this album is an Arts Council England emblem and if this is where some
of my taxes are going, then for once I'm not going to complain. These guys are
unlikely to ever be massive but if they're playing near to you, you could do
a lot worse then chucking a few quid their way by going along and/or buying
a copy of this CD.
by Phil T.
Visit the Zen Motel Website