Back in the day, before we had clever names and acronyms for every little niche piece of life, DIY was just simply the way many bands did things. They were experimenting with making music with the objects at hand and using the resources available to them. Back then no one recorded on a four track because it was cool, they did it because that’s what they could afford.
I was reminded of this epoch of yesteryear due to the lovely Montreal husband and wife duo Sacha and Caleigh Crow. Sacha became fascinated by Lou Reed’s ability to write great three chord songs and get away with being a musical genius.
Then he taught his wife how to play a few chords on the bass and they became a band that write songs which consist of three or four chords and are minimalistic as hell and of course to my ears sounded like an unearthed indie rock time capsule from the ’90s.
They already had me at their name, Pope Joan, and their first release, the five song EP City Zoo tickled my fancy in ways I can’t begin to explain. Okay maybe that sounds a little weird but I’m leaving it cuz I’m a lazy writer. But not so lazy that I won’t elaborate on sheer delightfulness of lo-fi simplicity that has never failed to delight my musical tastes coupled with hints of puck rock aesthetics whose forces are also quietly at work in the background of this record, as are a lot of different musical genres which makes the record a sort of musical kaleidoscope of sorts.
The opening tune “Lucy Says” has all the goofy splendor of Yo La Tengo, charged with a punk rock chagrin of the Sex Pistols. Then comes the stripped to the bone “Take These Hands” which owes a songwriting credit to Bobby Dylan for ripping off “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” It’s pretty lo-fi brilliant.
Then comes the psychotic indie-rock haberdashery of “Sit Beside Me” which gave me goose bumps of bands like Half Japanese and The Kinks just going crazy and throwing out songs left and right and not giving a damn about any sort of narrative flow. This extends into the cryptically beautiful “I Heard Her Sing” which reminded me of the early punch drunkenness of Bob Pollard and his brood. The record closes with the title track “City Zoo” which is straight up thrashing garage-bedroom rock music of the very oldest-school kind.
To me, City Zoo is a reminder that one doesn’t need the biggest box of crayons to make the most colorful drawings. One only needs the basest things and imagination and a whole lot of heart and soul which Pope Joan is chock full of.
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