Album review: ENUFF ZNUFF – Brainwashed Generation

ENUFF ZNUFF – Brainwashed Generation

Frontiers Records [Release date 10.07.20]

There was a time Enuff Z’Nuff’s lineup seemed to go into an endless revolving door spin, but now, with founding member Donnie Vie apparently leaving for good, Chip Z’Nuff has assembled a solid, talented line up. Guitarist Alex (Little Caesar/Shark Island) Kane and producer, engineer, guitarist, Tory Stoffregen, and drummer, Daniel Benjamin Hill have all been with the band a while now. There’s an interesting sprinkling of guests too…Steve Ramone, Mike Portnoy, Ace Frehley and others.

It’s a tight, tight combo, who’ve learned, under Chip’s tutelage perhaps, that in the world of rock’n'roll, less is often much, much more.

The band’s 2018 recording, “Diamond Boy”, was designed to shift the commercial emphasis onto a new generation of rock fans. It worked, pushing the album into the UK and US Indie charts. The writing was razor sharp (thanks to the overdue return of Znuff’s mojo), the production tight, the performances deft and collusive. Clearly, some bitter lessons were learned over many years of unremarkable albums.

New album, “Brainwashed Generation” is much better than its dated title suggests.

‘I Got My Money Where My Mouth Is’ is a beautifully pieced together poprock concerto. ‘Help’ (not that one) matches up. Its misplaced rush of pop optimism comes with a steely spine and White Album/Abbey Road harmonies, and like several others, it’s full of the band’s sonic signatures – unexpected chord changes, meticulously crafted hooks and a simplicity of phrasing.

Built on one of ZNuff’s sublime, down-shifting chord sequences, ‘Fatal Distraction’ isn’t far behind. It tilts the Difford/Tillbrook Squeeze axis to the point that a wonderful tune and some entertaining wordplay come tumbling out.

Z’Nuff shunts us down a few sidings from time to time, where we can enjoy watching the passing traffic – ‘It’s All In Vain’ and ‘Stranger In My Head’ have an easy going, pedestrian gait – then suddenly we’re hooked up to ‘Drugland Weekend’s dive down the (White) Rabbit hole, and ‘Go’. Any song that can rhyme Shark, Oligarch and Patriarch deserves a mention.

But the album’s standout track, by some distance has to be ‘Broken Love’. Wrapped round a slender melody, it’s not a love song as we know it, but a sweetly and softly sung lament, as Z’Nuff mourns his late brother. We may be tired of the comparisons the media makes when describing EZN’s albums, but songs like this one sound like ELO or the Beatles extrapolated to their logical essence … just a tune, a lyric, and a mood, all merged into a four minute magic spell. That’s how it’s done. ****1/2

Review by Brian McGowan



 

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