By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 8, 2005
To say that The Beatles have influenced Jeff DeVito, principal songwriter of the group Particle Zoo, is like saying that at one point in time Picasso thought squares were really cool.
Loneliness and Strangers, this New Jersey band's first full-length album, with its keyboard work, poppy riffs and light sound will seem like a throwback to the original Fab Four, complete with a strange reference to a walrus on track five appropriately called "Blue Walrus." The first part of the album feels like a trip back to the good old '60s in the days when weed was called grass and the flower children reigned supreme.
Though they do imitate The Beatles' sound, they aren't nearly as obtuse or cryptic in their lyrics. However, on some choice songs you may be left thinking they found psychedelic inspiration (see "Blue Walrus" above).
Though the title would have you believe otherwise, the album features some surprisingly upbeat music for the first few tracks of the record. "Pi in the Sky" is especially cheerful and comes off like a "Sesame Street" counting song, if Big Bird was flying off some wonderfully strong chronic. Some sample lyrics include: "The professor knows it more than I/He knows of the six and three and nine/The brain is two whole equal sides/The donut's just a Taurus for your eyes."
Loneliness and Strangers
7 out of 10
The album progresses from this initial stage of sugary sweet sounds to a more grown-up sound with lyrics that are especially probing and introspective.
The second half is more musically diverse, exposing the full range of this band's talents. The lover's lament in "Mistakes" is particularly noteworthy as one of the best tracks off the album. The diversity of the music and the musicianship is readily apparent. It seems to want to start off like a ballad in the same sort of desert minstrel style of Chris Isaak but then mutates into something livelier with a catchy accompaniment that is sure to get inside your head.
An articulate vocalist, DeVito knows how to interpret a song. However, as the lead vocalist he also knows not to completely dominate a song. There's reserve and control and knowledge of when to let other bandmates take the stage. Unlike other acts today, in which it seems like the guys just know the bare minimum needed to make a sound (Sum-41 and other pseudo-MTV-created "rock" bands come to mind). Particle Zoo is more than just background sound for the frontman to lay down his vocal. Whereas some bands get dominated by guitar riffs and drum solos, the keyboard is making a quiet comeback in this band. And together, the quartet works to produce spirited and interesting rhythms.
Overall, Loneliness and Strangers has some great musicianship that is definitely worth listening to. It's a good debut and shows promise for a follow-up album.