When I first started getting into music in the mid ’90s, the grunge era was beginning to fade and the alternative scene was taking over. Many of my favorite bands of the time, like Sublime and No Doubt, were what I call genre-benders; mixing a little punk, ska, funk and anything they could think of, into the normal rock mix to create a really innovative sound. In the end, these bands helped establish a decade of countless great rock albums complete with edgy and endearing singles like “Date Rape” (who doesn’t like that song?). When I began listening to ZOX’s sophomore release, The Wait, I couldn’t help being reminded of the bands I loved when I started figuring out my own tastes. Though their music reminds me of past notable groups, ZOX’s sound retains an originality that makes it exciting. Their new CD, released by SideOneDummy Records, is without doubt a rock album, despite its more than lingering ska and punk influences. After producing their first album, Take Me Home, on Armo Records (a small label in Rhode Island near the band’s Brown University stomping grounds) a few years ago, the band enjoyed surprising success and decided to devote much more time to their next album. Their effort has paid off on this new release.
A medley of unusual violin, guitar and energetic bass riffs create a unique environment for Eli Miller’s lyrics on The Wait. Miller, the band’s singer/guitarist, is especially great on the song “Carolyn,” a track with an upbeat melody, cool harmonies and heartening lyrics. “Can’t Look Down” is an exemplar of the band’s high degree of musicianship; its mutated violin, cool acoustic guitar progression and hard-hitting drums make the song a stand-out on the album. ZOX’s hard work is evident in this album, a worthy addition to anyone’s music collection.