In 2005, The Zincs released a second album, Dimmer, and proceeded to tour the country for the first time. A steady regimen of ten-hour desert drives and poor domestic lager will change a band, and The Zincs found an edge creeping into their music that hadn’t been there before. The creeping edge was still with them on their return home to Chicago and plans were made to record an album that reflected the change. As the acoustic and spare sound of Dimmer began to evaporate, the electric shine of the group’s dormant influences began to come through, from the Postcard and Rough Trade bands of 1980’s Britain to the minimal, organ-driven drones of 1960’s New York. All of this contributed to the album you see before you, Black Pompadour.
Named partly after the haircut that English singer/songwriter James Elkington aspired to construct for himself during his teenage years, Black Pompadour was recorded and mixed by John McEntire at Soma E.M.S. with additional recording being handled by Mark Greenberg at Mayfair Studios. All instruments were played by The Zincs: Nathaniel Braddock on guitar and unprepared piano, Nick Macri on bass and saxophone octet, Jason Toth on drums and James Elkington singing, writing the songs and making most of the other noises. Edith Frost sang on three of the songs; “Hamstrung and Juvenile”, “Rice Scars” and “Lost Solid Colours”. This last song was a duet that Edith had performed with The Zincs during their spring tour together in 2006.
Lyrically, Black Pompadour is a mix of veiled self- truths and non-sequiturs. The writing reflects the semantic styles of Flann O’Brien or Dylan Thomas augmented with the heightened unreality that comes with sitting in the back of a van on a six week tour eating dry sandwiches. Elkington’s dark sense of humor is dolled with Victorian restraint over a wide range of topics, from why it should be that the public are so willing to take advice from entertainers in “Lost Solid Colours” to the plight of the single person in “Hamstrung and Juvenile”:
“Now you know that once your copulations fail, you’re only half of that creature with two spines, and every new acquaintance that you add will say ‘you get thee gone, part-beast, you bear the signs,’ but which half are you now?”
The Zincs have succeeded in marrying their classic song-forms with a brighter electric sound to make a vital album for the times. What makes them such a singular band is how they weave such dark prose into their beautiful melodies, a reward that the casual listener could miss on first hearing. From the electric chimes of “Coward’s Corral” to the pulsing synthesizers of “Rice Scars”, Black Pompadour dashes expectations like a bullet through a fish-bowl and represents that rare thing amongst groups, a genuine progression.