Those Pretty Wrongs

Zed for Zulu

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It's not at all surprising that Those Pretty Wrongs sound more than a little bit like Big Star, since Jody Stephens, Big Star's drummer and occasional songwriter, co-founded the project with gifted pop tunesmith Luther Russell. But on their second album, 2019's Zed for Zulu, they've made an LP that suggests what #1 Record might have sounded like without the contribution of Alex Chilton. The sweet sadness of Chris Bell tunes like "Try Again" and "ST100/6," and the languid beauty of Stephens' "The India Song" and "For You," set the template for the sound of Those Pretty Wrongs, without the rougher edges of "In the Street" or "When My Baby's Beside Me" getting in the way. Zed for Zulu isn't quite power pop, as it drifts a bit too much with the current for that ("You and Me" and "Undertow" do come close), but if you like pop songs full of longing and wistfulness sung and performed with a master's touch, then this should be right up your alley. Stephens obviously knows the studio craft behind Big Star's masterpieces, and this music follows in that tradition while displaying a spare, eloquent personality of its own. In Russell, he's found an ideal creative partner, a gifted songwriter and vocalist who sounds authoritative and is capable of honoring his influences without sinking into near-plagiarism. Without violating the introspective tone of this music, Russell gives Zed for Zulu just enough of an edge that it avoids sounding too sweet and turns sappy. Those Pretty Wrongs have crafted a lovely homage to the softer side of smart pop with Zed for Zulu, and the results are perfect for late at night or a rainy afternoon.

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