slurred ‘sorry’s, still sexy exes and tippled tit and ass grabs, all scored to pitch-perfectly jagged dance-floor dramatics...
Daniel Melia
13:38 13th July 2007

“It’s just dancing and drinking/with some friends you don’t speak with anymore” lead singer Zach Van Hoozer croons in a heartbreaking half-drunken tenor on the fifth song (‘Dancing + Drinking’) off of Zulu Pearl’s self-titled debut, a sentiment that easily speaks for the disc’s MO at large: slurred ‘sorry’s, still sexy exes and tippled tit and ass grabs, all scored to pitch-perfectly jagged dance-floor dramatics. The D.C.-based quartet— formerly Richmond, Virginia’s Widows— seem hell-bent on a mission to prove that there’s more to the east coast music scene than NY x, y or z— logical enough, since they recorded ‘Pearls’ at Washington’s Inner Ear Studios last year, formerly home to such Dischord (and District) big-hitters as Fugazi and Minor Threat.
 
That’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 ‘White Flag’ sets the stage perfectly, with an elegantly lazy Van Hoozer informing us “We’ll stay up and we’ll stay all night long” 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 ‘Automatic Stop’. Like all great new bands, reference points are just diving boards, so that by the time you get past the tint of Franz on ‘Dark Ages’’ discotheque or the shade of Interpol in ‘Blush’’s electrifying intro (not bad comparisons, mind you), you’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.

‘Pearls’ is full of enough twists and turns to rival ‘Wild Things’, like when ‘Come Back’ 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 song’s bludgeoning conclusion. The same goes for ‘Wasted’, the best ivory-tinkling doo-wop ditty about being “wasted all the time” that never was, or the aforementioned ‘Dancing + Drinking’— the disc’s melancholic, maraca-backed standout. In fact, probably the only things missing from ‘Pearls’ are ‘Just A Young Man’/’Ways To Wind You Up’, the excellent one-two punch of Widows ‘I Don’t Kiss Whores and I Don’t Cry For Pop Stars’ 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, “There’s nothing wrong with that”.