by Tim Den
Guitarist/vocalist Chris Simpson, formerly of emo kings Mineral and indie popsters The Gloria Record, has had a career not unlike that of Jeremy Enigk. Both expressed their artistic beginnings in post-hardcore yearnings that were at once urgent, sensitive, and sloppily endearing, gradually moving toward a more refined sense of melody and songcraft as the years passed. Zookeeper, Simpson’s latest vehicle, is as removed from his old bands as Enigk’s new solo record is from Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary, in that there are no adolescent angst, soft-loud-soft-loud dynamics, or screeching feedback to be found. Instead, what we have here is the same kind of growth and maturity: Better hooks, better vocals, better song ideas/execution, better everything. But whereas Enigk’s music has become soothingly calm and blissful, Zookeeper’s is more akin to The Anniversary’s swansong, Your Majesty. It wouldn’t be too far off to call this classic rock done in the 21st century, what with the barnyard drums and Heartland chords being put to good use. But make no mistake, when Simpson opens his mouth, you know it’s him singing. Old melodic pattern habits remerge the most prominent on “Flood of Love” and “Two-Part Invention,” where you can almost hear the songs done Mineral style. Ah, the memories…
A promising restart for a gifted songwriter, Zookeeper’s debut EP definitely hints at great things to come.