On March 30th 2019 I was at the Owls Club, Toronto, for the premier of the album Zombie Karaoke Santa by the band of the same name. I played piano on the last 2 songs of the show, which were covers. It was a bit of fun at the end of the programme I suppose, although committing Jethro Tull’s song ‘Aqualung’ to memory was no laughing matter.
Before that, the band (unknown: lead vocal, guitar; Greg Tunis: electric guitar, backing vocal; Chris Simon: bass; Nick de Toro: drums) played the album in its entirety, though, wisely, not in the same order as the record. I say ‘record’ but there is no record. The way it worked was this: on entering the room, each attendee was asked for a donation and their email address. On the following Monday they received the audio files of 10 songs.
Now this gig wasn’t especially well-attended considering the size of the room. There weren’t hordes of good-looking young people jumping up and down in unison. As far as I know, no media representatives were there to decide what is ‘good’ and what isn’t. But a few weeks later, after having played it a few times, and, I hasten to add, having had nothing whatsoever to do with it – apart from that cameo at the launch event – this seems like a classic album to me.
I don’t think the songs on this album are particularly amazing. But they are so perfectly blended, combining light and heavy, bright and dark, introspective and exuberant, fast and slow; yet all have that Classic Rock feel.
I would assume the producer/drummer Nick de Toro is largely responsible for the sound of the album, which is organic, live-sounding and well-balanced. He anchors the music with great, loud rock drumming and technical acumen.
Greg Tunis on guitar had, I suspect, the most to do with the song selection and musical arrangements out of the four band members. Having had him participate on one of my tracks , I can testify that Greg doesn’t just play a guitar part, he absolutely nails it. He makes it hard to imagine anyone else playing or writing that part.
Holding down the bass is Chris Simon. Chris is a fairly busy player, but quiet. He memorizes the songs, no mean feat when the songs are composed by Zombie Karaoke Santa, and weaves around the harmonies intricately. The band is lucky to have him.
I was reading an interview with the painter Andrew Wyeth recently, in which he made the remark that the more you do something, the less conscious it becomes. So he makes his initial mark on the canvas very quickly and then walks away, before he starts thinking about it.
I’m not sure Zombie Karaoke Santa do a lot of things consciously. Hence we get lyrics which don’t really make sense, but, nonetheless, feel right:
‘Guess I’m not a person of design
Something to delete from your mind’ (‘I’m a Fool’)
What the hell is a ‘person of design’ and why the ensuing non sequitur?
‘Confused and Baffled’ (This song title seems like a truism. If you’re confused, surely you’re also baffled and vice versa.)
Paradoxically, to me these are great lyrics. The lyricist isn’t a journalist, nor should they practice self-censorship. Whatever comes out instinctively is, to my mind, what is most likely to resonate with the listener. It doesn’t matter if it’s clumsy or nonsensical. In fact, the more so the better.
I also like this bit of social observation and the autobiographical aside juxtaposed with it in the same song:
‘Lock it up to a tree. Where’s a dog to pee?’
‘Daughter’s all grown up. Used to be a coffee cup.’ (‘The Area’)
There are many artworks I would call ‘classic’ that receive not one iota of media attention. I suppose the societal causes and conditions have to be in place for even one person to call something ‘quite good’, let alone millions of people regarding something as a ‘classic’. But I believe the album ‘Zombie Karaoke Santa’ fits that description.
Zombie Karaoke Santa can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org