The Rezillos

Zero

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One of the great virtues of Scottish pop-punk geniuses the Rezillos was they broke up before they could do anything wrong. They formed in 1976, made a splash in 1977, released their superb album Can't Stand the Rezillos in 1978, and said farewell with a live album in 1979, fading into the sunset before they could tarnish their reputation. However, a new version of the Rezillos has been playing live shows since 2001, and in 2015 the group decided to tempt fate by cutting a new studio album, and Zero is the first time this band has honestly let us down on plastic. Zero features three members of the lineup that recorded Can't Stand the Rezillos -- vocalists Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife, and drummer Angel Paterson -- and the band (which on these sessions also featured Jim Brady on guitar and Chris Agnew on bass) manages a reasonable re-creation of the Ramones-esque sound the band delivered in its salad days. But if Zero comes within driving distance of the classic sound of the Rezillos, it seriously misses the mark in terms of feel; the guitars often sound like off-the-rack U.K. punk riffing, lacking the sugary energy and over the top joy of Jo Callis' economical playing on Can't Stand, and since Callis also wrote most of the songs on the debut album, it's no great surprise that the kitschy playfulness and pop culture obsessions that dotted their lyrics don't quite make the cut here, either, despite earnest attempts by Reynolds and Fife. (Callis would never have written anything quite as clunky as "Life's a Bitch" or the title track, for that matter.) And while Agnew's bass work is good, he lacks the hyperactive pulse Simon Templar and William Mysterious used to push the songs forward in decades past. Can't Stand the Rezillos was a one-of-a-kind blast of punky energy, new wave goofiness, and kids-throwing-a-party excitement; Zero sounds like the work of a veteran punk band whose members are hoping not to let down their fans. Is it bad? No, but when you're trying to follow up a classic from a remove of more than 35 years, you're often inviting a disaster, and though this album doesn't sink that deep, the main thing it accomplishes is making you not want to listen to Zero again, and look for your old copy of Can't Stand the Rezillos instead. Which, hint hint, is still in print.

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