Elizabeth & The Catapult The Other Side of Zero(Verve Forecast) Buy it from Insound
Albums that open with the sound of a ticking clock intrigue me. I’m not entirely sure why, but that constant ticking — which I’d likely find annoying anywhere else — is interesting when its included in the musical outlay. Let’s blame Pink Floyd for that one.
That said, Elizabeth & The Catapult’s The Other Side of Zero is a pop album that starts solidly, with the track (Time) We All Fall Down providing an eye (or an ear) to what the album has in store. It’s a solid pop track with some great moments, even if it doesn’t compel to blast the rest of the album: It at least keeps me listening.
When we hit the third track — the effervescent Julian Darling, bobbling with piano and the Elizabeth Ziman’s lead vocals — that solid pop exterior breaks open a bit, and we’re given a view inside. There are plenty of “very good” pop albums out there, and I’m not sure the world needs another piece of trite music with beautiful vocals. Luckily, I’m thoroughly convinced that’s not what we get here. You see, after that pop exterior breaks down, the album slows down a bit, if momentarily. Ziman does have a beautiful voice — don’t get me wrong — and this is good pop music, but there’s more here to hear than that boring nonsense you can hear everywhere.
We’re given a good chance to see this clearly: Go Away My Lover is less the effervescent pop single than it is the experimentation of a pop group, and it takes the simplistic four-piece approach that dominates throughout and twists it on its head. Instead, we have music performed with a frenetic attitude (though not at a frenetic pace) that’s not afraid to utilize empty space.
Much of pop music is afraid to stray into those areas of empty space, so when a group demonstrates a willingness to even try, they’re worth a little consideration in my book. Elizabeth & The Catapult shows not only that mere willingness, but a refreshing eagerness.
Musically, what we have here is solid if not always breathtaking. It’s not overly bombastic, but it doesn’t need to be. When a leading female vocalist has a voice with good tone and power, the tendency to write pieces of music that show that skill but don’t do much else slips in, and that desire seems largely absent, much to the benefit of the listener.
The Other Side of Zero shifts from side to side with some regularity, ranging from bubbly and invigorating to downbeat and expressive. There’s a real sense of diversity here, and it’s what sets the album apart.
Ziman’s vocal qualities may be rare, but they’re not so rare as to appear only once in a blue moon. Others clearly sound as good as she does, so it’s not enough that she has a great voice. It is with some relief, then, that The Other Side of Zero breaks through those boundaries, and the 45 minutes the album lives in aren’t boring.
When the album ends, none of that time feels wasted. There’s a parsimonious quality here from beginning to end, and it’s enough to keep me involved from start to finish. I can’t ask for much more.4 November, 2010 - 22:01 — Matt Montgomery