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Zig Zag - It Gets Worse

Zig Zag. Photo by Camden Pink.
Almost every new release I write about on the site features a band or artist that is currently based in or originally from the Kansas City metro. Zig Zag is a Florida hardcore punk band that has never played here and is only connected to Kansas City through its vocalist, Josie, who has been living here for the last couple years while the band has been on a sort of hiatus. Slim as this connection is, Zig Zag's new 7-inch is too special to pass over.

Released this past Friday through 11 PM Records (the same Richmond DIY label that brought you Loss Prevention's standout vinyl debut last year), Zig Zag's It Gets Worse is the most exceptional hardcore punk 7-inch since Loss Prevention's standout vinyl debut last year. One of the first things that sticks out about it is how secure the band comes off in its writing. Lots of bands over the past few years have been playing as fast as possible at all times, partially in reaction to how trendy mid-paced hardcore became in the mid-'10s. Zig Zag plays enough fast parts to please genre purists while simultaneously retaining the rock-n-roll swagger that can be more easily explored at slightly slower clips. There's plenty of speed, but the nuances don't get left in the dust.


Both the band's 2018 demo and this 7-inch were recorded by Invisible Audio in Florida, but these recordings are a clear step up; crisp and perfectly balanced. Whether it was a change in gear, technique, or perhaps the added mastering work of the infamous Will Killingsworth on this release is beyond me, but this is how '80's-style hardcore punk was meant to sound.


The band doesn't let this ideal recording setup go to waste. I don't know any of them personally besides Josie, but my impression is that, due to their relative youth, a majority of the band got into punk at a young age and have had the time to learn what makes an engaging record. I'm confident in asserting that if this was released in the '80s, Josie's vocal performance would've been considered among the greats of the genre. In a style of music where it's tempting to simply go as loud and crazy as you can, Josie's vocals are as refined as they are visceral, cutting through the mix without stealing the show from her band. Her sarcastic, nasal whine dips and dives with the guitar melodies and grows more pained each time a lyric is repeated. Imagine if Jerry A or Darby Crash sang with a hot take podcaster's vocal fry (this is cool and good, please don't "at" me).

Performance aside, Josie's lyrics are also top notch. "The Chase" could end up punk rock's anti-cop anthem of the year. The song features a simple and undeniable chorus -- "Red and blue / I hate you" -- and a vicious verse -- "Protect your own rights, serve us lies / You should be the ones who die / Getting by on taking away / Getting off on causing pain." Musically, the song begs to be slammed to for the entirety of its minute-long runtime.

Then, back to back, are two more tracks about the ills of modern society. "Cry For Help" captures modern America's individualistic, uncaring nature, while a cover of Redd Kross’ "Burn Out" outlines some of the only escapes offered to those pushed to the margins -- drugs and alcohol. The song opens with a vintage documentary sample of teenagers discussing why they choose to use drugs before the band launches into a stompy, buzzsaw ripper, complete with dogpile sing-along lines "Burn out!" and "Leave me, leave me, leave me alone!" You can take this moment to contemplate how our governments have been failing us consistently since (and before) punk's inception in the late '70s, or you can get fucked up with Zig Zag and do your best not to think about it.

By the EP's final song, Zig Zag has put in some serious work (even if it only took seven minutes to get there) and decides it's time to let loose. Their reward for themselves is an anguished but playful four minute, slow-burning rock-n-roll romp that takes the band's name. After a few minutes, "Zig Zag" has devolved into a mess of guitar soloing and distortion, but doesn't bore for a second. It's a choice type of song for the band and fans alike to drunkenly write around on the floor to as drums are knocked over and a guitar is smashed. 


It Gets Worse is the final recording of late guitarist Austin Ashley, who, just by listening to this brief recording I can tell, had playing chops, a classic style, and real know-how as a songwriter. Though he passed far too young, most rockers can only hope to go out on a record like this.

Stream, download, or purchase vinyl from 11 PM Records below.

1 comment:

  1. Great ! I Like the Nice Cool cover of Burnout by Redd Kross Born Innocent LP 1982


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