Zach Quinn - One Week (Cover Artwork)

Zach Quinn

One Week (2016)

One Week Records

Any fan of PEARS had to have raised an arching, skeptical eyebrow upon hearing of front man Zach Quinn’s plan to release an acoustic album via Joey Cape’s One Week Records. Having trail blazed a two-year path to becoming the Paul Bunyan of punk front men, a larger-than-life presence in the current scene revival, it’s hard to remove Quinn from his particular craft of orchestrated cacophony which plays such an integral part in PEARS’ striking deviation from the norm. The road of front-man-turned-acoustic-solo act is paved equally with stories of both success and failure—at best, these acoustic ventures occasionally manage to eclipse the renown of the original associated act; at worst, they can alienate an established fan base by delivering a lackluster, watered-down rendition of the familiar by forcing an accustomed, beloved sound into an acoustic format. With this in mind, trying to imagine Quinn accompanied by anything other than a sound that matches his furious grandeur was confusing, if not almost altogether uncomfortable. Lesson one: Zach Quinn did not set out to reinvent the PEARS wheel with his acoustic debut, but rather break the mold. No less passionate or poetic, the 10 songs featured on One Week are not a mere re-imagining of B-side PEARS material or an attempt to perform PEARS-goes-acoustic; while the offerings are unquestionably elevated by the same emotional intensity seen in Quinn’s collaborative act, One Week is fueled by an entirely different impetus and medium, delivered by Zach and Zach alone. The result is refreshingly uncharted territory.

In regards to sound, the tracks run the gamut of acoustic potential, underscored with the dutifully minimalist signature of One Week Records and Joey Cape’s expert guidance – the result is not perceived as edited, as in ‘something removed from’, but rather tailored to Quinn’s musicianship which unarguably extends far beyond that which we have seen before. Starting off somber with a dash of Stockholm Syndrome, “Anchors” sways with the haunting rhythm of the metaphorical ship it is describing, utilizing cadence as well as lyric to evoke the intended imagery and emotion—Edgar Alan Poe’s “Bells” put to an Elliot Smith-esque instrumental, if you will. Already the dichotomy is crystal clear—whereas PEARS excels at, and are praised for, their ability to facilitate the translation an easily-misheard lyrical message through the simultaneous effect of lyric, music, and performance, acoustic Quinn perches delicately between music and lyrics to cultivate the overall feel. The effect is equal parts participatory and voyeuristic, as seen with the folk-y, finger-picking “Jinx”.

Seemingly another venture into the melancholic narrative of love unrequited, “Jinx” waxes poetic and heartfelt until the lyric “I miss the litter in my bed” registers, and after a few more listens, just doesn’t quite jive—it is in this stark moment that you realize that your heart is not currently being trampled by another woeful tale of boy-loses-girl because the “sweetheart symbiont”, Jinx, is Quinn’s cat. On that M. Night Shyamalanic note, I quickly quantified “Jinx” as the second of only two cryptically feline songs with the potential to bring an involuntary tear to the eye of anyone with a pulse (the first, of course, being Propagandhi’s “Without Love”—R.I.P. Cronie).

Further still, Quinn pushes the envelope along with “Cupcake”: sauntering, sardonic, and perfectly punctuated by Cape’s repeated cry of “I’m a cupcake!”. The faintest of whip cracks heard in the background highlights the peripherally uncomfortable, almost sarcastic sexuality that is implied throughout, imbuing “Cupcake” with a purposed theatrical artifice, an acoustic burlesque painted with a shit-eating grin from ear to ear. But we know “what goes up must come down”, and with any striptease, physical or otherwise, comes the inevitable nakedness— “Cupcake” abruptly shifts gears into bared vulnerability with a change in melody and the mention of rain, a reoccurring theme throughout One Week. Carrying the song through to the end, Quinn’s raw chanting of “I’ve got to keep it together” echoes with equal parts mantra, war cry and plea. But it’s not all gloom and angst; “Pooh” is a jaunty, pivotal countermeasure to any creeping maudlin self-pity, addressing the issue head on in the childishly taunting, almost “meta” intro: “this is a tiny violin, and it’s playing just for you”. Upbeat while playfully self-deprecating, the shift in overall sound is redoubled through the lyrics—the mention of “rain boots” stands in notable contrast to the otherwise regular allusions to rain; not necessarily a permanent solution, but an improvement nonetheless.

That being said, if anything was to be left wanting from Zach Quinn’s One Week, it’d be to know what his potential as a solo artist would be given another week or so. You can download a copy of Zach Quinn’s One Week from One Week Records by clicking here.