The Zells’ No More Heroes EP – the six-song follow-up to 2018’s excellent Failure to Slide, out today via Pittsburgh indie Crafted Sounds – starts with reverby, almost spacy guitars and glitchy percussion, a far and intentionally removed cry from the seat-of-your-pants garage-rock on which the band cut its milk-teeth. By the end of opener “Balloon D’Or,” the band, indeed, goes full pedal to the metal (this is a record of slow starts, gradual builds and crashing closings) but that intro is an interesting reminder that these guys aren’t looking to do the same exact thing twice. Good on them.
Yes, yes, the band’s spunky, college-rock spirit (think Pavement by way of Dead Milkmen) is definitely evident – look no further than the spit-take, rapid-fire delivery on “Four Chills and Seven Snaps Ago.” This is not a departure from a route so much as it’s a bend in the road, and The Zells seem to take great pleasure at toying with the narrative a bit. Hell, on parts of the somber “Graze,” the EP closer, the Pittsburgh quintet sounds more like Bedhead than it does The Gotobeds, something that would have been blasphemous to suggest when the group was still building its base under the name Denzell.
The single “Hello Loser,” which has been making the rounds in Pittsburgh circles for several weeks, sounds hooky as all hell here and as addictive as West Virginia meth; yes, that song is part of the reason it needs to be said that much of the record lives up to Failure to Slide’s Sisyphean expectations. The multi-guitar approach can sometimes create a knotted net of notes in places (the bridges of “Saturday” are a little cluttered) but, elsewhere, it works wonders, like on the sometimes-energized “Going to Hell.” (Yes, synths!) If there’s a low point on the record, a moment where the mind wanders away from the content at hand, I didn’t hear it.
All in all, this is a fine outing from fine young men, and one worth coming out of Gooski’s once in a while, you hooch-tosser, to hear. Now, go get it.