â€œItâ€™s just dancing and drinking/with some friends you donâ€™t speak with anymoreâ€ lead singer Zach Van Hoozer croons in a heartbreaking half-drunken tenor on the fifth song (â€˜Dancing + Drinkingâ€™) off of Zulu Pearlâ€™s self-titled debut, a sentiment that easily speaks for the discâ€™s MO at large: slurred â€˜sorryâ€™s, still sexy exes and tippled tit and ass grabs, all scored to pitch-perfectly jagged dance-floor dramatics. The D.C.-based quartetâ€” formerly Richmond, Virginiaâ€™s Widowsâ€” seem hell-bent on a mission to prove that thereâ€™s more to the east coast music scene than NY x, y or zâ€” logical enough, since they recorded â€˜Pearlsâ€™ at Washingtonâ€™s Inner Ear Studios last year, formerly home to such Dischord (and District) big-hitters as Fugazi and Minor Threat.
Thatâ€™s a hard party to crash, especially with a first-time release, but ZP manage to do it with all the wit and grace of your new favorite basement-cum-bar-band about to stumble up the stairs and into the street; the disc plays like (twenty) seven minutes in heaven with the jean jacket clad kid in the corner who smells like malt liquor but has a rose in his pocket. Opener â€˜White Flagâ€™ sets the stage perfectly, with an elegantly lazy Van Hoozer informing us â€œWeâ€™ll stay up and weâ€™ll stay all night longâ€ over a beat practically tripping over itself to get to the finish line, then settles into an even more appealing bouncy second act, an affair underscored by Strokes riffage circa â€˜Automatic Stopâ€™. Like all great new bands, reference points are just diving boards, so that by the time you get past the tint of Franz on â€˜Dark Agesâ€™â€™ discotheque or the shade of Interpol in â€˜Blushâ€™â€™s electrifying intro (not bad comparisons, mind you), youâ€™ll find yourself swimming through entirely different currents altogether: a medieval, mace-wielding temper in the former, an urgent, stop-start sprint towards resolution in the latter.
â€˜Pearlsâ€™ is full of enough twists and turns to rival â€˜Wild Thingsâ€™, like when â€˜Come Backâ€™ lures you in with its seductively seesawing come-ons before baring its fangs midway through, needle-point guitar guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and leave you vulnerable to the songâ€™s bludgeoning conclusion. The same goes for â€˜Wastedâ€™, the best ivory-tinkling doo-wop ditty about being â€œwasted all the timeâ€ that never was, or the aforementioned â€˜Dancing + Drinkingâ€™â€” the discâ€™s melancholic, maraca-backed standout. In fact, probably the only things missing from â€˜Pearlsâ€™ are â€˜Just A Young Manâ€™/â€™Ways To Wind You Upâ€™, the excellent one-two punch of Widows â€˜I Donâ€™t Kiss Whores and I Donâ€™t Cry For Pop Starsâ€™ EP (get thee to an iTunes), but with a disc already so tightly packed with potential singles and shit-faced sing-a-longs, why add two more? Just dancing and drinking? As Van Hoozer says, â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong with thatâ€.