Authority Zero – Rhythm and Booze
Release Date: June 27, 2006
Record Label: Suburban Noize
There are two valid motivations for recording a live album. First and foremost, it is an opportunity for legitimately talented bands to differentiate themselves from the studio babies and autotune-clinging, overproduced bullshitters so ubiquitous in the scene today. Also, the live album can act as a window into the character and personality of a band that might not otherwise be able to lure fans out to shows or get the media exposure to purvey said good-guy-ness.
Luckily for Authority Zero, they excel in both areas requisite for a solid live album, and even up it a notch by boldly foraying into the realm of the acoustic. On Rhythm and Booze, the beach-rock songsters toss out enough energy, talent, and fun-factor to impress even the most skeptical listeners.
When they came onto the music scene in 2002 with the promising A Passage in Time, Authority Zero looked primed to rise up as the rightful heirs to the reggae-rock throne left recently vacant by a dismantled Sublime and aging 311. However, the public seemed to fall slightly short of hoisting these Arizona boys on their shoulders, despite the feisty flair and plentiful gusto of the fresh-style tracks. Needless to say, Authority Zero’s modest popularity has not bolstered by the markedly weaker Andiamo released in 2004.
Fortunately, though, the boys have maintained and nurtured an almost cult-like following in their home state and beyond, and the release of Rhythm and Booze is the outsider’s first insight into the drivers behind this fervent loyalty. From the first words of the amusing introduction and the subsequent transition into “A Passage in Time,” it is clear that Authority Zero have a keen sense of how to fuse the drinker’s chill with the punk’s tenacity. Highlighted by some slick solos on their unplugged axes, the opener is an all-around success, and translates surprisingly well to the acoustic medium. After “Passage,” “Retreat” cranks up to a decidedly punkier platform, complete with frontman Jason DeVore doing his best Tim Armstrong growl. This track also underlines the first fundamental flaw about Authority Zero’s shift into the quieter realm – for as skilled as his band is, DeVore consistently drowns them out in animation and volume. While plenty dynamic enough to be up to the task, that is immaterial – the best lead singers know when to yield more to his wingers and share the spotlight regardless of their heightened capacities.
Further on into the record, the songs continually oscillate between highs and lows; “Siempre Loco” is a sedate, jazzier number that inexplicably tickles the crowd, while conversely, “Mesa Town” is a riotous, comical narrative about all the life-of-sin that fits the venue’s mood perfectly. The album really lulls and slows when the band tries to wax philosophical/political on “Revolution” but predictably scores irrefutable hits with fan-favorites “One More Minute” and “Over Seasons” that both sound fantastic (replete with a cute little bout of banter with the crowd during the former).
Overall, Authority Zero’s venture into the acoustic universe surprised me a great deal. Essentially, I did not expect for the band to be so naturally talented, both vocally and instrumentally. Sure, the tunes from A Passage In Time are far superior to those from Andiamo, the guitars tend to get drowned out by the vocals, and the package here should have an included DVD. Regardless, I think the primary goal of a live CD is to make the listener or casual fan want to check a band out in concert next time they hit your town. And even though Authority Zero’s effort here is not perfect by any stretch, they have sold me on a ticket for their next tour. Mission accomplished.