Ceremony are old school punk rockers. They take pride in avoiding social media of any kind, emphatically stating on their website that they do not have Twitter, Facebook or Myspace. When preparing their new album Zoo, singer Ross Farrar chose to write a letter using traditional pen and paper to outline for fans what the music was going to be about and how things had changed since their last album. “There are songs on the record that sound fast, slow, eerie, full, or abrupt, each one different, but at the same time very similar,” he wrote. That’s a very accurate way of describing it, and for the band’s biggest fans, that’s probably not good news. Quick and dirty has been Ceremony’s ethos for their first three records, and that’s not quite the case anymore. Moving from underground punk label Bridge 9 Records and onto indie superlabel Matador certainly didn’t win them any cheers either. Yet punk band labelmates Fucked Up have done a nice job proving that you can have success without losing any of your edge. The same can be said of punk supergroup OFF! and young upstarts Iceage, both of whom have been doing great work in reviving a genre that once called Blink-182 a member. That said, it’s a little unfair to call Zoo a hardcore album. It lacks the sharp edge and white knuckle energy to earn such a descriptor. The easiest way to describe this record is to slap a post-hardcore tag on it, which is a fancier way of saying the music is heavy but not quite heavy enough to kick you in the teeth. This more tempered approach enables the band to experiment a bit without ever straying too far from their base. Only “Citizen” really sounds like classic Ceremony. Most of the time the band seems like they’re aiming for garage rock and using early 00’s bands for inspiration. At any given moment a track bears the markings of The Hives, The Vines or The White Stripes. “Quarantine” does a surprisingly good job of re-creating the sound of pre-Dookie Green Day, and the driving bass on “Hotel” gives it a very Joy Division feel (who, of course, they’re named after). There are also potions of Zoo that pay tribute to the godfathers of punk rock. You can absolutely hear the influence of Pink Flag-era Wire, This Nation’s Saving Grace-era The Fall, and even a little Metal Box-era Public Image Ltd. on bits like “World Blue” and “Community Service”. The worst part about the similarity is that Ceremony isn’t quite in the same league as those heavy-hitters. There are a lot more hooks on this album compared to the band’s older material, yet most of the songs are shockingly unmemorable. John Goodmanson produced it, and he turns out to be a positive influence on the overall sound of the record, adding depth and color to even the most plain-sounding songs. Unfortunately, there are quite a few of those plain songs on Zoo, and it causes 12 tracks and 36 minutes to sound like something much longer. Ceremony may have broken free from their hardcore punk habitat to try and explore other options available to them, but this record is evidence enough that some animals truly belong in cages.

Ceremony – Hysteria
Ceremony – Adult

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