The Zombies ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ – Review

19 May

The following is a list of acts that have cited The Zombies as an influence: Animal Collective, Beck, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Fleet Foxes, Mystery Jets, Paul Weller, The Vaccines, The Drums…the list could go on. Panda Bear has even gone as far to say that Animal Collective’s much admired harmonies are largely inspired, not by The Beach Boys as is commonly assumed, but by The Zombies. When it comes to long-term impact few have been as influential as this group. If you haven’t heard their music before then first things first go out and buy THIS and THIS, you won’t be disappointed. ‘Odessey and Oracle’ is arguably the best British album of the 1960’s (and therefore all time) and they also had some of the best singles (‘She’s Not There’, ‘Tell Her No’, ‘This Will be Our Year’, ‘Time of the Season etc).

The group split up in 1968 but a few years ago they reformed and they’ve been consistently touring (to ecstatic reviews) ever since. However their new musical output since then has been hit and miss; Colin Bluntestone’s latest solo album was well received but The Zombies first album since the sixties, 2004’s ‘As Far as I Can See’, got universally panned. It was with some trepidation therefore that I stuck on their new album ‘Breathe Out Breathe In’. This time around I had read nothing but nice reviews, and thankfully the praise is mainly justified.

‘Breath Out/Breathe In’ is a pleasant album. I realize that pleasant is hardly what most bands are aiming for, but it really is the word that best describes it. Listening to it is like slipping into a pair of comfy old slippers or watching a re-run of your favourite sitcom, it just makes you feel utterly satisfied. There are some wonderful moments on here, moments that remind me why The Zombies are one of my favourite bands. The title track for example, breezes by with a jazzy sophistication that is sorely missing in contemporary pop music, it reminds me a bit of ‘Care of Cell 44’. My favourite tracks are probably ‘A Moment In Time’ and ‘Shine on Sunshine’, both of which are brilliantly optimistic and euphoric, which could be said for a lot of the album.

Whilst there is definitely a 60’s flavour to many of these tracks, some songs recall Rod Argent’s other group, Argent. They were a prog rock band in the 1970’s, with hair that was somehow even longer than their guitar/organ solos.  On ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ a few tracks drift into this unfortunately proggy territory – not so much in song length or solo excess (thank god) but more in production terms and arrangements. Things like the cosmic harmonies on ‘I Do Believe’ and the bland power pop riffs on ‘Another Day’ really drag the album down like a led brick. The Zombies original material had a lightness of touch that just wasn’t evident in much of Ardent’s output and it isn’t evident here either a lot of the time. A good example is ‘Let It Go’, a song that was originally presented as a delicate and moving piano ballad on their 2009 tour; here it has been transformed in to a power ballad removed of all subtilty.

If you were expecting another ‘Odessey and Oracle’ then you were always bound to be disappointed, but I think that fans can still be pleased with what the band have produced. The Zombies are doing this for their own enjoyment, the aren’t making claims to greatness anymore, and their boundless enthusiasm is really infectious. Yes it’s quite cheesy, dated, and hopelessly out of touch, but compare it to what Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson or any other sixties legends are producing now and it holds up very well. You suspect that with the right producer and in the right conditions they have a much, much better album still in them (maybe one of the many acts they’ve inspired should pick up the gauntlet and collaborate), For now though fans can be happy with ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ – it’s not another classic but it doesn’t tarnish their very fine name.


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