The Zangwills are an intriguing proposition. That name, on the surface so typically ‘indie’ in the most wearing-a-trilby-around-Camden-in-2007 way, could easily be a leftfield reference to 19th Century author and territorialist thinker Israel Zangwill.
Is it an intentional nod from a well-read troupe of artistically-inclined troubadours, or simply a cool-sounding word plucked from a history textbook at random? It is named after a street? It’s impossible to tell.
It could be all or none of them.
Such is the charm of this band. Their management asked some music journalists and photographers to suggest artists whose fans The Zangwills would appeal to most; the general consensus, says their official band bio, was “early Arctic Monkeys”. But whilst there are some lyrical Alex Turner-isms on display here – “I’ve been doing backstroke in your lipstick river” from Lipstick River recalls the whimsical romanticism of Suck it and See – the Monkeys comparison doesn’t entirely do them justice.
Although their sound sometimes teeters perilously on the edge of ‘landfill indie’, It’s Really up to You is a solid EP with some brilliant moments. Opener Patio Paradise is a brash and raucous stomp, and lyrics like “I’ve heard your bark and I wanna feel the bite” sound much less trite being growled by frontman Jake Vickers than they look on paper.
Track 2, Inside My Head, is the first glimpse we get of proper emotion. The vocal melody and delivery feel like late-2000s darlings of Kerrang, Reuben (remember them?), in a good way. It shares a distinctly Marr-influenced guitar jangle with closing track Lipstick River, which contains some of Vickers’ most self-consciously clever wordplay: “She said give us your hand/I said which one do you want?/‘Cause I’ve got two”. This is where the Monkeys’ early years – and the early albums of The Wombats, The Courteeners et al – are most clearly conjured.
The undeniable stand-out track on this EP is The Horrors of Sobriety. It sheds the obvious comparisons in favour of squalls of feedback, atmospheric sound effects, and a moving rawness. Vickers channels genuine desperation as he howls “Take me!/Leave me!” in the chorus, and his delivery elevates the song, and the entire EP, to another plane. Here, The Zangwills don’t sound like they’re trying so hard; when they let go like this, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Their odd name, then, is a fitting metaphor for this EP. You might think you know what it’s about, but peel back the layers, get beneath the surface, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with some brilliant, raw, occasionally spine-tingling moments. If The Zangwills can deliver more of those, they’ll shed those pesky Arctic Monkeys comparisons (if that’s what they want to do!) and go far. They are The Zangwills…and unlike what Mr Turner said, do believe the hype!
It’s Really up to You is out now on all good download/streaming services.
- Patio Paradise
- Inside My Head
- The Horrors of Sobriety
- Lipstick River
- Chris Gibson
Chris is singer/ guitarist from Delphina Kings, go give them a like!