Zero Down - With a Lifetime to Pay (Cover Artwork)

Zero Down

With a Lifetime to Pay (2001)

Fat Wreck Chords

So anyway, the other day, I was flicking through some records I haven't played in a while and decided to crack open Zero Down's With a Lifetime to Pay. For anyone not aware, Zero Down was fronted by the late great Jim Cherry, a founding member of two skatepunk heavyweights, Pulley and Strung Out, both being favourites of mine. So how does this sound?

If Pulley are the super summery harvesters of feel-good melodies and Strung Out yield a darker, more metallic sound, then Zero Down are somewhere in between that, albeit a bit slower. Actually, when I first heard this a few years ago , my initial thought was that this is indeed slower. Too slow. Silly me. It turns out that that same speed represents the mood Jim and company went for here: Dark and hopeless. Whilst song titles like "The Way It Is" and "Empty Promised Land" alone show the woeful tale of being older in "the real world" Jim is trying to tell here, the lyrics give us a clearer insight into the agony and despair woven into With a Lifetime. From "Going Nowhere:"

Is this what you offer me, a system of dishonesty?
Where life gets measured monetarily and I'm just another face.
Another man with the simple skills of staying alive and paying the bills.
Never amount to anything, live and die where I've always been.
This is where I'm at, the bills still come no matter what;
I'm all grown up but still Im going nowhere.
Despite all this doom and gloom (complimented well by some smooth gritty, moody vocals), we are provided with a few faster songs such as "The Way It Is," "It Ain't Over Yet" and "The Best," which are just enough to keep everything flowing well. In other words, you don't get bored. Let's face it, Mr. Cherry was always great at writing creative riffs using variations on the bog standard power chord (see "Working Class Whore" or "Mind Of My Own") and this is no exception. Unfortunately that link with the songwriting in Pulley and Strung Out left me wishing this was in the same vein. What we have here is a nice change for fans of the aforementioned bands and a decent album but ultimately, I end up returning to Twisted by Design or Esteem Driven Engine.

Thanks for the music Jim, and rest in peace. Did you have to close this album with "...and now I choke to death on the words I didn't say," though?