Saturday, 1 October 2011

The blank face of melodrama: Can I get some back-up on Zola Jesus, please?

Everyone loves Zola Jesus, huh? I could barely find a bad review of this record, which must mean one of two things: either I am hopelessly out of step with what's hott + relevant + buzzy, like all these witchy house and draggy-gaze and don't-call-it-goth-but-it-is-really non-genres of recent months/years; OR (and I prefer this one), I am simply today's prophetic manifestation of cosmic musical truths, a Pop Nostradamus of the 21st century transmitting flippant critical insights and pointing at the falling sky while common-or-garden bloggers flap around mindlessly, recycling press releases and performing their ablutions.


It seems to me that Zola Jesus has cut corners artistically by releasing an album so soon after her last and failing to offer any noticeable change of mood or direction. Her voice can only bring out an intuitive response in the listener - you really do either love it or hate it, and for me it happens to be the latter, in the strongest possible way. It just seems so false, melodramatic yet blankly superficial, a hyperreal 21st century performance of a performance with emotions boiled down into a string of signs and off-the-shelf vocal tics. But as ever, I'm open to crits. What am I missing?

First published in Loud And Quiet

Zola Jesus
Souterrain Transmissions/Sacred Bones Records

How to make a Zola Jesus record in next to no time: Take one facsimile of Marina Diamandis’ voice. Extract the froggish tics and cod-operatic throatiness; discard rest, including consonants. Apply a layer of chest-thumping histrionics and allow to dry until almost transparent. Add a few coarse chunks of piquant instrumentation - prepared piano and re-animated toybox, for instance (or whatever presets you have to hand). Dust with upside-down crosses and a few bumps of unidentifiable low-grade dust; serve on a bed of ripped tights to wide-eyed fashion interns and MP3 bloggers. Any leftovers can be fobbed off on little sisters feeling down about their GCSE results.

Look, I hate to be flippant. But if Zola Jesus can’t be bothered to put any effort into her third studio album (the second only came out last August), then neither can I. A torturously tedious listen.

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