Listening to Taxis, Zoos of Berlin's highly anticipated debut full-length, don't be surprised if it's hard to convince yourself that this is Detroit music, circa 2009, and not music from … well, Berlin, circa 1977. From just listening, one might almost expect that onstage the band members would appear fuzzy and a bit out of focus — like they're being transmitted into our reality via a late '70s East German TV station broadcast.
It's impossible to not draw immediate comparisons to David Bowie and Brian Eno here — "Century Rail," the record's first song, almost sounds like an outtake from that duo's Berlin trilogy days. But when "Back in the Sun Room" bursts to life afterward, its driving tempo and alarm-like trumpet make it abundantly clear that Zoos of Berlin are onto something pretty incredible, and even new. The quartet of accomplished Detroit-area musicians is borrowing efficiently from a musical goldmine of late '70s glam and prog goodness. If traces of Yes, Pink Floyd and even the Alan Parsons Project are present, it's only the good stuff from those respective artists. In other words, Zoos are smart enough to focus on the greater qualities of the era and not the histrionic excess. It's doubtful that they'll soon be flying giant inflatable farm animals over the stage or orchestrating theatrical performance on ice any time soon.
Even on "Juan Matus," a frequent-gear shifting epic jam, they've managed to reel it all back in at only a little over the six-minute mark. It would've taken Pink Floyd at least three or four "Shine on You Crazy Diamonds" to get the same effect. In the end, for Zoos of Berlin, it's all about incredible music and deliberate composition. While they might subversively succeed in making Yes cool again among modern listeners, they're doing so with their own signature sound and vision front and center.
Zoos of Berlin's CD release party is Friday, July 31, as part of Phonotropic's Wicked Awesome Barbequed Musical Safari at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248- 858-9333. With Prussia, Friendly Foes, Millions of Brazilians and more.
Laura Witkowski reviews music for Metro Times. E-Mail [email protected].
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