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Recorded early 2004
ZEN Devil Take Me Down/Deptford Broadway.
Zen's debut single wears its influences very firmly on its sleeve while still managing to sound highly fresh and contemporary. Like all the best musicians who pay homage to the work of previous artists, Zen don't simply replicate the sound of their influences they build and expand upon them. What they've produced is a heady blend of folk, punk and psychedelia for a 21st century audience.
The first track Devil Take Me Down revives the talking blues form. It's an up to the minute take on a style of blues that goes back to the 1920s. Bob Dylan made it popular in tracks like Subterranean Homesick Blues and he in turn was inspired by the 1930s folk artist Woody Guthrie. The catchy chorus is interspersed with a witty spiel in which singer Christy talks us through his search to find himself. He starts on Oxford Street and his spiritual quest takes him all over the West End before delivering its moral: "steer clear of doing wrong/Listen to what your mother says/And never sing this song."
The flipside of this double A side is Deptford Broadway, a wistful ballad that celebrates and laments the passing of what, for a brief moment, was an important address for musicians in South East London: 51 Deptford Broadway. For nearly two years practically every musician in the area either lived, played or partied there. This could make it an exciting place to be as well as a chaotic place to live. The song marks a moment of turning in singer Ceri's life as he wrestles with his decision to leave. The tune has the sort of tender melancholy, tinged with a dark underbelly, that Arthur Lee achieved on Love albums like Forever Changes.
The back up track She's So Demanding is a raw, straight for the jugular slice of psychedelic punk pop. It's an angry and angst ridden wail of misunderstood male frustration. A pounding drum track adds huge weight to the fuzzed up screeching riffs and hoarse vocals.
This is an impressive first record for Zen which manages to convey a great deal of musical accomplishment while promising much greater things to come. An impressive feat. It's worth making sure you buy this record so you can say you were into Zen before everyone else finally got on board.
(Music Journalist for NME, Mixmag, The Independent and many other publications.)