Music

Authority Zero: A Passage in Time

Stephen Haag

Authority Zero

A Passage in Time

Label: Atlantic
Amazon
iTunes

There's an odd duality swirling around Authority Zero. Starting with a band name that denotes both strength and nothingness, the Mesa, Arizona, quartet seems to be trapped between two callings -- West Coast hardcore (a la Pennywise or Operation Ivy) and Sublime-esque white-boy reggae. They're not quite able to reconcile those two styles on their Atlantic Records debut LP, A Passage in Time.

After I say that, of course, A Passage in Time opens with a curveball: a 20-second intro titled "Papa", a tribute to a deceased member of guitarist Bill Marcks' family, and a ditty that's a dead ringer for Mark Mothersbaugh's Rushmore score. Sure, it's pretty enough, but what it has to do with the music that follows is anybody's guess. The album proper opens with the title track, which lead singer Jason DeVore tears through with appropriate hardcore brio while bandmates Marcks, bassist Jeremy Wood and drummer Jim Wilcox pound away on their instruments; they even remember to throw in the requisite punk "Whoa-oa" a couple of times. Then the band tries to get clever and pulls their one trick out of their sleeves -- aping Sublime -- during the bridge; it's a formula they lapse into on "Lying Awake" as well. It's not half as smart as they think it is.

Sometimes the band abandons the hardcore altogether in favor of the faux-reggae. "One More Minute", which found a home on modern rock radio earlier this year (and was promptly overplayed to within an inch of its life), is a sunny, loping slice of fun that's easily the album's highlight. But it too suffers from being overlong; at 6:28, the song's title starts out as a harmless broken promise and ends as a threat.

DeVore flies through the lyrics regardless of what the band sounds like behind him. He's a decent singer, but his voice suffers slogging through the overly wordy songs, and the songs suffer from a general lack of traditional song structure. DeVore thinks he has a lot to say and he crams the songs are full of overwrought homilies like "the life you choose to lead is your fate" (from "Everyday"). As a result too many of the songs are overlong and bloated.

A Passage in Time suffers from some disjointedness when the bands throws in a few songs from 1996 -- "Superbitch", "Mesa Town", "La Surf", and "Good Ol' Days". The liner notes indicate the other nine songs on the album were penned in 1999 -- there's that duality again. While the band is to be commended for inviting former Authority Zero member Jerry Douglas to sing on the new "old" tracks, it's a shame the songs are embarrassing. Where the new songs are of the "we've got to rise above" mentality -- heck, "Sky's the Limit", with its chorus of "Go! Go to the sky / Devote and try / Don't you want to believe? ... / Devote your life, no boundaries" could easily find a home amongst the Christian rock ilk. DeVore apparently hadn't discovered his spirituality back in '96. The earlier batch of songs tackle the themes of the suckiness of mean girls and the merits of drinking til you puke, all the while sounding like Rancid's snot-nosed kid brothers. The exception is "La Surf", a 90-second instrumental that's just begging to be used in an SUV commercial where some extreme-sports loving types drive out to the desert and dune surf.

A Passage in Time, while hardly great, shows a band with enough musical ideas to at least succeed, but they still lack focus. I've seen them play concerts with OK GO, Sugarcult, the Starting Line, Maroon 5, and Brand New just in the past four months alone. Just who the heck are these guys (and why did they want to spend their winter in Connecticut)? Shaking the dual-image problems (hardcore flagwavers vs. Sublime torchcarriers; partiers vs. uplifters) could do wonders for Authority Zero. Until the quartet figures out who they are, their passage through pop culture will be brief.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.