hide - Ja, Zoo

review - 05.02.2008 08:00

hide's memory lives on in this diverse album.

Released months after hide's passing in 1998, Ja, Zoo is a testament to what a diverse artist he was. Constantly bouncing between light and dark, upbeat and heavy, it is an album that shows off the many personalities and layers that existed in a musician who left this world much too soon.

The album opens with SPREAD BEAVER, a showcase of instruments rather than vocals. Though the words "spread beaver" are repeated throughout, the main attraction of the track is the mix of tantalizing guitar riffs and a throbbing bass line, leaving the listener wanting more.

A climbing guitar intro kicks off a favorite, ROCKET DIVE. Dominated by catchy lyrics and addictive rhythm, this song would make it difficult for anyone to sit still. hide's vocals exude assertive energy and, combined with solid drum beats and distinctive guitar riffs, create something that is uniquely ROCKET DIVE and uniquely hide.

LEATHER FACE features a darker, slightly industrial sound. The polar opposite of its predecessor, this track shows off another side of hide's multi-faceted style. The consistent onslaught of different sounds is a pleasant sort of sensory overload and is the perfect backing to hide's gritty vocals.

The unmistakable Pink Spider, which is often said to be a nickname of hide's, comes next. With determination in his voice, hide sings over the guitar-centric rhythm of this song. Whether the song itself is autobiographical in any way is questionable, but it is definitely memorable. The bridge following the chorus shows off a more subdued side to hide's voice and the track, following a climactic build of sounds both instrumental and vocal, ends with just a few final words.

DOUBT'97 (MIXED LEMONed JELLY MIX) oozes raw, sensual energy. Though the chorus is a frenzy of sounds, the deep, pulsing bass line and heavy guitar riffs are what make this song what it is: sexy. hide's sometimes whispered, sometimes growled vocals are perfectly paired with the style of this track that seems to end just as soon as it starts.

The next track may not be one of hide's most well known songs, but FISH SCRATCH FEVER is just as catchy as many of those fan favorites. The slight hoarseness of hide's voice is a perfect match to the song's quick paced rhythm.

ever free is characterized by hard-hitting drums and rollicking guitars. With lyrics that you just can't help singing along with, this song is one of the best on Ja, Zoo. It's a song that will stay with listeners long after it has ended and, whether they are aware of what the words mean or not, is sure to elicit a smile from them. Simply put, ever free is a feel-good track with memorable lyrics and enough pep to get anyone moving.

BREEDING, however, is pure rock. The blending of instruments is perfect, with a sonorous bass line, skillfully played guitars and pounding drums backing hide's vocals, which sound almost dreamy at times. Though it ends in a somewhat somber way, it’s an all around great rock song.

A piano opening introduces the listener to PINK CLOUD ASSEMBLY, a short but interesting track. Sounding much like a mixed, instrumental version of Pink Spider's bridge, it employs barely audible whispers, a catchy guitar riff and orchestral sounds. Combined, these elements make for a strange, yet somehow nostalgic feel. Though the track boasts a length of over twenty minutes, the music itself lasts only a couple. The remaining time consists of mostly silence, punctuated by the sound of static and a dial tone.

Upbeat, mellow, soft, rough – all of these words, and more, can be used to describe hide's music. Whether growling out lyrics or playing an awesome guitar solo, this brilliant artist never lacked in personality and attitude. The album, along with the rest of his memorable discography, serves as a way of preserving his legacy and inspiring new artists and fans alike.
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