Palm Reader

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When you think of "lounge music," images of a smoke-filled club accompanied by laid-back sounds might immediately come to mind. But the full-length debut by Chicago's ZZZZ, 2005's Palm Reader, is certainly not your normal fare associated with velvet couches, martinis, and stogies. Sure, saxophone plays a prominent role here, as it does in most lounge music, but ZZZZ's brand of lounge is a "grab you by the throat" style, as it's certainly not meant for background use. Musical parallels can be made to Frank Zappa and Morphine at times, but there's also something unmistakably new wave on occasion -- in a B-52's kind of mold -- especially in the vocal tandem of Steve Sostak (who doubles on sax) and Ellen Bunch (who doubles on electric keys). The uptempo album opener, "Assassination Polka," serves as a fine summary of the ZZZZ sound, and sets the stage perfectly for what follows, including the percussion-driven "Forget It" and the jittery "Bandit King & Queen." If you turned on MTV or the radio in 2005, you'd notice saxophone-led rock bands to be a nearly extinct species, and as a result, ZZZZ certainly stood out from the pack.

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