Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
This is one of those where-to-start moments, but in saying such a thing, it would imply that there are countless ways and manners in which to describe such a band as Zoos of Berlin. The Detroit band ties our tongues, however. They give us all these ways to spin our wheels and just slobber all over ourselves, like pooches. They effectively force the parts of the brain racking themselves to figure all of it out to get a stern chiding from the other parts that just want to listen and nothing else. These wanting to listen and hear what's going to be done next parts of the brains are shouting themselves hoarse, "Shut the fuck up, you guys! The band is playing. I'm trying to listen over here." Or there's a big shush fest - as happens at live shows filled with chatterboxes and the clueless - breaking out in your own upstairs. There is a myriad of good reasons to just get sucked into the sounds and strange as hell storylines that these guys create. It might as well all be dance music, in some way, but it's all too damned cerebral to be just that. We feel taken and smitten and all we want to do is be with these songs, in any way that they'll have us. The songs on the band's excellent full-length, "Taxis," are filled with glitter and gold, subdued glam rock, pop hooks and all kinds of arty degrees of molding and shaping, some rather complex architecture. The songs come at us as warnings and as celebrations, feeling like the most joyous occasions, scary stalking pieces of music and old 80s sitcom theme songs, when theme songs used to goddamn mean something. Zoos of Berlin songs are puzzling numbers, or puzzles that need not be solved to be enjoyed. They have this slushy chill to them that just makes them irresistible. They are reminiscent of olden books and sound as if they should be using old-time vernacular to express themselves, as if they should be steeped in some kind of vintage heritage that makes them older than they are, smarter than they should be smart. They deal with old hearts and old hands and songs like "Stay By The Ark" feel as if they're lovely treasures that Midlake left in a chest at the bottom of a body of water, with trout for guardians and sentries, collected during the "Trials of Van Occupanther" recording sessions and then just foolishly forgotten about. They hinge on that frayed line between being bits from the woodshed or the wood pile or the chipped trail leading down to the horse barn -- from that soft rock 70s of Fleetwood Mac and Bread while shooting all of that discussion straight to hell with songs like "Electrical Way" and "Century Rail," which just wow and confound in wonderfully pleasing ways. We love the ways that they surprise us and we love the ways in which they deliver us always to a brilliant place that we never knew existed, time and time again.