Desperate for Acceptance
The first forty seconds of “Please,” the lead song and first single from San Francisco blues-rock four-piece, ZED, are promising enough: a thumping drum beat, then a cool bass line and finally a kickass heavy rock riff. ZED’s brand of no-holds-barred southern rock works in the context of bars, booze, and cigarettes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, once the vocals — or specifically, the lyrics — come in, Desperation Blues goes from promising to parody, and little can be done to regain respect.
“You, you’re my milk and honey / But you never gave me your money / Pretty soon I’ll have you on your knees / Pretty soon, you’ll be begging me ‘please.'” Lyrics may not be the focal point of this kind of music, but they shouldn’t be distracting, either. The shame of it is that the song is otherwise cool, especially the way the guitars harmonize with each other at the end. The “knees/please” motif is repeated later in “More,” another song that is otherwise impressive in its interplay between the bass and guitars.
Pete Sattari’s vocal delivery is too convincing for these lyrics to be anything but deliberate. What’s worse is that ZED admits to taking two years to write, hone and record Desperation Blues. Most of the guitar lines feel off the cuff, like the result of jamming, not planning; it’s hard to believe that so much work went into the composition of these numbers. With the exception of a few moments, like the open-chord refrain in “Rain” or the near-Kashmir-like instrumental “The Empty Quarter,” Desperation Blues sounds like the album a band would create in a week after playing a few too many Skynyrd/Whitesnake/Led Zep cover band gigs.
ZED’s 2010 debut, The Invitation, was aided by a rougher, more raw sound, which effectively authenticated ZED’s garage status. Desperation Blues enjoys crisp, perfect production and mixing, and the end result is that they ask to be taken seriously when they would be better suited to remain the fun but forgettable opening act for the better, more capable blues-rock band you really came to see.