The Rezillos

Zero

by Hans Rollman

6 March 2015

Seminal Scottish punkers show they’ve still got what it takes.
 
cover art

The Rezillos

Zero

(Metropolis)
US: 10 Mar 2015
UK: 16 Mar 2015

The Rezillos are back with their first full-length studio album in over three decades. To no one’s surprise, it was worth the wait.

It seems remarkable that a band which has been around in various forms since 1976 has only recorded two studio albums in that time (they have released a number of singles during the intervening period, and a full-length live album). But it’s certainly not for lack of talent.

The Rezillos got their start living the punk/new wave dream. With roots as a ‘60s rock ’n’ roll cover band, they rapidly fell under (or perhaps, took over) the influence of the burgeoning post-punk/new wave scene, and the combination skyrocketed them to popularity in their home base of Edinburgh. In short order they’d headlined for the Ramones and put out what some consider Scotland’s first punk single. After recording their first single in a friend’s apartment-studio, they attracted considerable interest and were signed to Sire Records shortly thereafter.

After the release of the band’s first album in 1978, things got murky. Contract disputes with their label and creative differences among band members caused the group to gradually disintegrate, fissioning off into smaller projects (founding member Jo Callis went on to work with the Human League). For a while, some members performed and recorded as the Revillos (owing to contract restrictions). In 2001, fellow Scots band The Proclaimers persuaded them to re-form as the Rezillos and take the stage at a festival they were headlining, and the performance was such a hit it led to subsequent tours and a second life as a band, in more or less their original incarnation. Instead of fading out, they were back with a vengeance, and in 2012 they played their first full-length North American tour.

And now at long last, Metropolis Records has announced the release of their second full-length studio album.

The new album means business. No pension-fund collection of recycled hits, this. The album kicks off with the aggressive “Groovy Room”, demonstrating that they retain the unapologetic angry edge of punk’s early days. The next two tracks aptly demonstrate the broader range of their style: the more rhythmic, rock-tinged “Number One Boy” hearkens to their rock ’n’ roll roots, while “Life’s a Bitch” veers toward the metal-rock end of the spectrum. These aren’t bad, but thankfully much of the remaining album hovers around that raw, punk-inflected creative anger: Fay Fife’s half-spoken, half-shouted vocals on “Tiny Boy” are put to a smoldering ambient punk rock background; “Spike Heel Assassin” offers a blaze of fast-paced, heavy bass aggression. Fife’s unique Scottish-accented vocals remain one of the band’s alluring qualities. The album’s title track is a masterful combination of angry guitar and haunting spoken word delivered in delightfully quirky fashion by Fife. She got her start with the band as a backing vocalist, but quickly became lead singer (a role shared with Eugene Reynolds) and her powerful vocals—equally effective when spoken or shouted—are one of the most compelling things about the band.

The Rezillos are one of the truly original, quirky and talented bands that chaotic first wave of post-punk/new wave music gave birth to. They’re also, amazingly, one of the few bands from the era that are still around, on-stage and—thankfully—back in the studio. Although consistently given pride of place in rankings of most influential punk bands and albums, it’s strange they’ve never seemed as familiar to North American audiences as some of their notorious fellow punk pioneers. Perhaps this is, in part, because they actually survived that chaotic era, and in this, as in their music, they demonstrate the unique edge which always allowed them to stand apart from the crowd. At once iconic, and yet still fiercely non-conformist, the singular appeal of these punk pioneers is as powerful today as it ever was.

Zero

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