CD Review: The Knack – Zoom

CD Review: The Knack – Zoom
Omnivore Records
All Access Rating: A-

The Knack - Zoom reissue 2015
Zoom always held a special place in Doug Fieger's heart, the 1998 album by The Knack that was said to be his favorite.

Never mind that he took the occasion to declare that "Pop is dead!" and asked mourners to bring their shovels for a not-so-solemn burial – this after the resurrection of the band's punk-y smash hit "My Sharona" on the charts, thanks to the 1994 movie "Reality Bites."

With that strutting, brash and completely lovable simpleton of a song getting a second chance at love four years prior, The Knack made a triumphant late-'90s return with Zoom, due for a well-deserved expanded reissue treatment by Omnivore Records, the label that's planning to re-release the band's final three records with a wide assortment of extras.

Zoom is first up, and it's easy to see why Fieger was so fond of it, the record brimming with vitality, confidence and assertiveness, as it strides into a listener's consciousness like a beautiful woman who knows all eyes are on her, its songs memorable and utterly charming. Full of bright, spangly power-pop rocks – the infectious, punched-up "Pop Is Dead," "Harder On You," and "Can I Borrow I Kiss" among them – simply bursting with catchy, candy-coated hooks, sharp guitars, "snap, crackle, pop" rhythms and expertly crafted melodies, Zoom has a brilliant glow about it. As does the tastefully appointed "Love Is All There Is," with its sighing, cascading vocal harmonies – found everywhere on Zoom, which featured original members Fieger, Berton Averre and Prescott Niles, along with new drummer Terry Bozzio  – that could melt the coldest of hearts.

Some of that residue of youthful energy and sexual tension that made 1979's chart-topping Get The Knack such a ubiquitous sensation remains, but Zoom is a damn sight more mature and sophisticated, recalling The Beatles at their creative apex. Colorfully psychedelic, its swirling harmonies almost hypnotic, "(All In The) All In All" – smartly and beautifully arranged to transition and flow almost effortlessly in the manner of a professional ballroom dancer on LSD – is a spinning magical mystery tour guided by the Fab Four, while the swooning melodic sweetness of "Mister Magazine" belies the stinging critique of tabloid journalism contained therein. Suffused with bittersweet longing and tender regret, which practically oozes out of its carefully stacked piano chords, "Everything I Do" is just as wonderful, exhaling pain and sadness like Badfinger.

Slightly rough and somewhat more sparse, scruffy demos of "Mister Magazine," "Harder On You," and "(All In The) All In All" only go to show how fully formed these songs were at birth, whereas the bonus track "She Says" has a bit of a country twang, is full of unabashed yearning and rises on majestic piano, revealing an appreciation for Roy Orbison's flair for the dramatic. Not to be forgotten, Bozzio joins the band on a new version of "My Sharona" that's tougher than the original, but is just as catchy as ever. Get The Knack may have made them stars, but Zoom has the teenage symphonies to God that are going to get The Knack into heaven. Doug's waiting for the rest of them.
– Peter Lindblad

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