Since 2009, Toronto's Zeus have been grafting away at creating their own brand of melodic, retro-flavoured indie rock. On their previous two albums (2010's 'Say Us' and 2011's 'Busting Visions'), Zeus wore their influences on their sleeves and demonstrated their knack for undeniable pop hooks and inventive three way vocal harmonies. As joyous as the Zeus sound was, there was always a sense that they could not just go on making the same album over and over, and on their third offering 'Classic Zeus', Zeus have moved on to ever so slightly different pastures.
'Classic Zeus' opens with the melancholy strains of 'Where Is My Love?'. There are familiar sounds here, such as the thick bass lines and intricately crafted vocal harmonies, but as an opening track, it seems a little more fragile and delicate; far from the cocksure numbers which have opened Zeus records in the past.
Next up is 'Miss My Friends' which offers an updated, perhaps slightly more modern take on the Zeus sound. It is a fun and bouncy track that sits somewhere between ELO and The Flaming Lips. It is straightforward, but as one of the most raucous tracks on the album, it seems Zeus are looking to take the foot off the pedal a little for the time being.
There are plenty of examples of this band stretching their legs stylistically on 'Classic Zeus'. There is the interesting, modernist layering of sounds in an almost Steve Reich kind of way in 'Everybody's Got One'. There is the dance-y, '70s soul vibe coursing through 'First One In' (which later erupts into a totally unexpected guitar solo) and there is the psychedelia drenched vibes of '27 Is The New 17'. It is captivating to hear this dreadfully talented band of instrument swapping musicians step outside the box.
Elsewhere of course, there is the usual Zeus stylings of 'Bonnieview' with its soaring Queen-esque guitars, and 'Straight Through The Light' which will go down as a Zeus classic in years to come. There are a lot of slower, more stripped back numbers on show here too, which in places perhaps bog the album down somewhat.
Overall, 'Classic Zeus' is maybe the most difficult Zeus record to get into yet. There are some absolute gems on offer here, but you first have to get past the surprise of this band casting aside its day glow summery pop stylings. This is definitely a grower though, and perseverance is the order of the day. Perhaps this is more contemplative Zeus than 'Classic Zeus'.
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