"My thoughts are catching up with me / So many of them one of me / Nowhere to run / Black thoughts chase down anyone."
So screams the vocalist of Ireland's Zen Fuck-Ups on "Victim," as growling, distorted guitars twist about violently like caged sharks in a manner that Greg Ginn would appreciate. This band, and album, seem to have come from nowhere. It's impossible to find any real information on the band or it's members. Their Bandcamp page describes their debut album, and seemingly sole musical output, Days of the Week, as "one man's ascent to madness" (note the use of the word "ascent" here). The theme of madness is certainly an overwhelming one throughout. Within the 24 minutes of the album, Zen Fuck-Ups speed, smash and scream their way through what can only be described as an acceptance and celebration of, well, being fucked in the head!
Being a concept album of some kind, Days of the Week paints a picture of a tormented mind, but it does so in the most fun and extravagant way possible. The album opens with an eerie 41 second intro that goes from extremely quiet to very loud. It's the sound of a busy street with added voices and repeated phrases that swell up to a loud cacophony, representing the voices and pure crazy ready to burst out of this guy's head. That's when a snare suddenly smashes in and the next track leaps into action. On repeated listening I have come to think that this surprise snare hit symbolizes the guy snapping, launching his mental breakdown. Days of the Week is like that; it's very much an album where repeated listening brings out some minor detail that wasn't noticed before, be it musical, sonic or thematic. The songs, while simple by themselves, are part of a subtly complex and layered album.
Track three, "Victim", is my personal favorite and will probably be yours too. At only one minute and ten seconds long minus the intro sample, this song grabs you, shakes you, then tosses you to the side in a flurry of sweet melody and ripping aggression. The band cites OFF! as a major influence and this track clearly shows why. There is also some delightful, very early Adolescents-style, backing vocal "ahhhs" sung by the band's secondary vocalist. This vocalist is a female and the dynamic and contrast that she brings to the album is truly the cherry on top of each song that she sings on, which is most of them. The next three tracks race by and are as good as each other, highlights being the Keith Morris-esque wails in "Paranoid"'s interlude and the funky bass solo in "Static." After "Static" though, there is an interlude track that I was simply not prepared for. I won't spoil the surprise but I'll just say that it is the total opposite of everything that came before and is simply delicious. It's inclusion in the album is quite hilarious really and shows the sense of humor and fun that this album is all about, while also adding to the chaotic and senseless nature of the guy's mind, as I have unofficially come to call him.
After the interlude, the perspective seems to tilt a little, from very negative to very positive. There are some visits back towards negativity on this side of the album, but overall it's a much more positive one. The guy seems to be fighting back against his oppressive mind. "Fight," a superbly catchy track with snarling, twisting riffs and an epic interlude, describes this in quite literal terms. "Getaway" is a more rock/pop-punk sounding song with a slower tempo than the rest of the album, and the female vocalist really gets to show us just how sweet her voice can be. The penultimate song on Days of the Week opens with just an acoustic guitar and intense vocals that build to a vitriolic expression of victory. After this the song explodes into a repeated guitar riff with some great drum fills throughout. The track fades out after a couple of minutes but until then Zen Fuck-Ups give us another surprise. There are sounds of lots of people talking and shouting and laughing and I don't know what else all over the track. It's a lot of fun and obviously references the intro to the album. The final track on the album is the biggest surprise of all. An instrumental track called "Insanity," it sounds nothing like the fast punk tracks before it and wouldn't be out of place on a post-rock album. The album would have resolved just as well without it, perhaps even better, so it's inclusion is confusing. I think perhaps Zen Fuck-Ups just didn't want to take the safe route and wanted to be different. It's not a track I would really listen to ever but it is definitely interesting and is actually quite funny in a weird way. Like everything else it's just so dramatic and overt that you can't help but enjoy it being there.
Zen Fuck-Ups are mysterious and strange. They could have ended the album after "Getaway," or certainly after "Out," but their inclusion of "Insanity," along with the surprising interlude, is bold and tells us that they probably don't give a fuck if it was the smart thing to do or not. Days of the Week is a deceptively simple album of fast, frantic punk rock. These are songs that do not leave your head once they're in there, and this is an album that demands to be replayed. It's pure fun. There are flaws, but for a debut this is damn good. Hopefully there'll be more to come from this Irish band, and soon.
You can check it out here