M.J. offers this opening salvo in between applications of cocoa butter :
Thanks to Dimitri and Viktor and a couple of Russian workers at my hotel, I finally got ZZZ downloaded while still on holiday at the seashore. (Note : being on holiday no doubt is very influential in forming my opinion.)
Fate's foot stepped in, as usual for BG, and prevented release of this album during the Winter. I would not have liked it as well if I had been wearing a winter coat with the north wind stinging my face the first time I heard it. This is definitely a feelgood summertime album. It begs to be taken on vacation. If you aren't into it now, put it away until the weather warms up where you are. Then get it out and take it to the beach, get on a boat, where a couple of salty old sailors in blue striped shirts, with no teeth, and gray waist length hair are pulling in the nets and joking about the captain. Turn the Ipod on ZZZ, get yourself a pina colada feel the wind in your face and salt spray on your skin. Then you will like the sound of this album.
My favorite cut thus far is "Tramontane". It gets my vote for catchiest tune, and is as close to rock as this album gets. A close second is "Dead Sailors Don't Sleep". It is just so Boris that I can't not like it (I agree with Mr. Hell's "instant classic" review ). I also really like "Zabadaj". Why? Well, I don't know. It just makes me feel good. The song "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom" Just doesn't move me like some of the others. I tried to like it. I really did. I listened to every pre-album version that has been online. It isn't a song that I have to fast-forward past. It is just that every time I hear it, I keep wondering if BG had been watching that Zoom, Zoom, Zoom Mazda commercial when he wrote it. The music on "Immortal Sister Ho" is just like some old, old song I know and like. Somebody please tell me what that song is. I am going crazy trying to recall it. A BorrowinG? Maybe. And I like the whistling.
"Beauty Is A Terrible Force" will probably sell well. It has the usual great lyrics. To me, the reggae music does not fit with the words. But if my past efforts at Reggae had sold well, I would be writing more, too. (cha ching!) "Cream and Caramel" is another that doesn't particularly move me. It could be a good love-making song. But I would have put "You Belong to Me" in here. BG could melt steel when he sings that one with just his acoustic guitar accompanying (and the next time Boris calls me up to help him make an album, I will be sure and tell him just that :) ) "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" is the best love song on the album! Another classic.
No, it is not Electricity or Radio Africa. But let's face it, it isn't the eighties anymore either. And thank God for that, 'cause I'd still have a mullet. If you were wearing diapers in 1983, stop whining, you don't have wrinkles yet. :)
Since 2005 marked the beginning of the era of the "Greedy Bastard Tour", Aquarium needed a feel good album to reassure the fans that the changes could be for the better. I think ZZZ does that adequately.
(If you aren't familiar with the Greedy Bastard Tour, the phrase was coined by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. It refers to rock stars that go out on tour with a dozen musicians and a couple of dozen assorted roadies and handlers and consequently go in the hole from all the expenses. So the next time you see them on tour there is only the star and his guitar. I think what we are seeing this year, with Aquarium, is the BG version of "The Greedy Bastard Tour". It works for me.)
Other BoB regulars opine:
Dimitri: "... I reckon it's good, overall. Surely not a milestone or turning point, but equally it's for sure another solid BG album. Boris does not disappoint. He comes across somewhat tired on some tracks, though. It's like 'I am gonna air out this song now, and I couldn't possibly care less, whether you're hearing or not—just let me finish droning out this piece I wrote during my last summer vacation'...True, he might have outdone himself and presented the long-awaited best A-album ever, or as well, fucked it up completely, but yet again, he has done something in between. I say, to me, it's equally no big surprise and no big disappointment, either. I think what counts is that the album is honest."
Mr. Hell: Zoom Zoom Zoom certainly is a good album. A part of that lies in the story of its genesis. As told by BG, he claims to have written the whole album in one month during his summer rest at the Mediterranean. After that the recording took place in London, but the album wasn't finished until a couple of sessions in St. Petersburg were added to give it its final grinding. Indeed, Zoom Zoom Zoom has some kind of summery feel: most of the songs sound relaxed and inspired and the lyrics celebrate the beauty of creation (though the esoteric tone might not be everyone's thing). The production of world-music producer Simon Burwell—he's worked with Mali's Ali Farka Toure and a couple of members of the Buena Vista Social Club—fits the album well. Especially with the contributions of the new guitar player Igor Timofeev, Zoom Zoom Zoom marks the return of the musicality of classic Akvarium recordings. Even though parts of the album are dominated by bg's new foible for African and Carribbean music, the Akvarium sound remains recognizable most of the time. There might be some things one could dislike about the new album: mock-African chanting and shouting, a couple of quite opulent arrangments and lyrics that could annoy even some bodhisattva. But all in all Zoom Zoom Zoom seems to me to be the best Akvarium album in years, especially as it includes two songs that are candidate for the status of instant classics: "Dead Sailors Don't Sleep" and "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You."
Viktor: With the release of ZZZ Boris is fair and square with us for 2004-2005. A decent album. Not all гавно, occasionally смешно. Anyway, I do and will probably trust BG's angle of observing this world exactly because he releases somewhat mediocre stuff from time to time: we all are mediocre most of the time. It's a творческий ОТЧЕТ—"that's what I've been up to recently". He knows he must say something regularly. It's a burden to be borne for the luxury of a guaranteed audience. But all these so-so releases from him do not invalidate the simple truth that artistic matters are spiritual matters. The latter, many believe, have no competition in the hierarchy of important stuff in our lives. Someone earlier talked here about the lack of "religion". True, one can go a long way without religion...but not a really long way. Art is a way to see and know (in the Biblical sense, too) creation, understand it, explain it to oneself, enjoy it, live in it. Poezia is the king and matrix of the arts. Classical poetry is no more, rock 'n' roll may be dead, but poezia has remained, does remain, and will remain. It just takes various forms. Poezia is a bodily fluid, humans die without it (not only Russians). Poezia is lacking in ZZZ.
Kirill: THe problem with Zoom is not that it's a bad album, it's that there isn't any of that old time rock 'n' roll religion in it. Instead, we have an old dude who likes reggae. I had the (mis)fortune of buying Radio Africa (which finally completes my collection) at the same time as Zoom, so this distinction is all too obvious for me.
Finally, Dzhon claims dibs on the Last Word:
A zip-a-dee-doo-dah of an album: fast, spritely, wearing a shit-eating grin. Mr. Bluebird is perched right on BG's shoulder. How can I possibly resist humming and grinning along?
I can't…entirely. But not everything is quite "satisfactch'll" with these particular songs of the south. Let's start with the fact that this is BG's most flagrantly incoherent album yet. Thought Sister Chaos was inconsistent? Thought Fisherman's Songs was borderline schizophrenic? Well, they're not a patch on this. No shift of musical style or lyrical mood is too bizarre for New Millennium Boris…as is more than demonstrated by the lunatic jump from the heartrendingly wistful, Celtic-inflected "Dead Sailors Don't Sleep" to the unabashedly inane calypso piffle "Zoom Zoom Zoom." The former is one of the better songs BG has written during the past decade: melancholic accordion, tin whistle and ghostly Uilean pipes propel starkly simple lyrics, and—bliss!—we're in the haunted latitudes of Navigator. Next track? Only the silliest BG has ever written. Sillier than "Two Tractor Drivers." Sillier than "Mal'chik Evgraf." Sillier, even, than "2-12-85-06." The first 10 times I heard it, I absolutely loathed it. Then, on the 11th, I found myself shamefacedly swaying along to its corn-pone groove. But, much like when R.E.M. came out with "Shiny Happy People," all BG's old fans have to be asking themselves "WTF"??? It's genuinely hard to believe that this is the same man who wrote "Adelaida."
Then there's the fact that several of the album's tracks are just flat-out yawners. "Zabadai" sounds like an outtake from Pentagonal Sin: 4:45 minutes of aimless strumming, Montessori woodblocks, and grating synth that goes absolutely nowhere. "Eternal Sister Ho" should be titled "Utkina Zavod Redux": a doofy 30's-style horn-driven two-step that is as stale as Wallis Simpson's wedding cake. (I am so over Quirky Retro BG, I can't even tell you!) "Folk Song from Palma" is such a soporific Mediterranean idyll that I keep drifting off in the middle of it: "Siesta in Palma" would be more to the point, even when the muted guitar solo makes things a little more interesting somewhere around the three minute mark. And "White" is an attempt at Afro-European cross-pollination, a la Paul Simon's Graceland, but with forgettable results.
Much better news is found with "Beauty" which is—Believe It or Not!—a Boris-goes-Caribbean effort that doesn't totally suck. Sure, the fake marimbas—again!—are way, way too far forward in the mix (Rubekin!!! Grrr.) but, for once, the music actually captures some genuine island spirit. "Cream and Caramel" is rescued from sounding like a remake of "From Kalinin to Tver" by an unexpectedly kick-ass electric guitar solo and the Sha-na-na-style background vocals. (High time Boris rediscovered that there's such a thing "электричество"!). "Tramontane" is a catchy up-tempo rocker that similarly hinges on some fine electric guitar work by Akvarium newbie Igor Timofeev. And "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" wisely keeps things lyrically simple while featuring some nice interplay between the guitar and the Uilean pipes. (I am, you may gather, a real sucker for Uilean pipes.)
Like the tapas of an eccentric celebrity chef whose eagerness to try new flavor combinations overwhelms his good sense, Zoom Zoom Zoom is equal parts inspiration and inconsistency. ("And for my next course a tangy salo sorbet with creamed horseradish and caramel sauce…") All the songs, good and bad, are a series of hyper-exotic divertissements, tingling and troubling our palates, but the main course—the reliably solid songcraft that was the meat and potatoes of Akvarium albums of yore—never comes. I love "Dead Sailors" and quite like "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and "Tramontane," but that means I'm still leaving the table hungry.
But the time for blasting Boris for his failure to resume his amazing string of genius albums has passed. The Ship of Freaks that was original Akvarium is now ancient history, and Boris has now settled deep into his Elder Statesman role—Kremlin visits included—and is clearly relishing his time of life. Some say art is born of fierce desire, unbearable pain, or overweening ambition. Bodhisattva-like, Boris seems to have purged himself of such worldly distractions, and the upshot is that we get albums that are not "art" but "diversions." Consider me "diverted"…though I'd much rather be "challenged," "moved" or "awed."