Zmrzlina

Katastrophe Vol. III (Incidental Music)

Listening to Katastrophe Vol. 3, the newest offering from S.F. band Zmrzlina, is like going to a theater to see a noir thriller and getting David Lynchian oddness instead. The music on the group's sophomore effort is so lush and seductive that you wish it wouldn't insist so vehemently on being Art. And yet, Zmrzlina's determination to mess with its hook-laden pop tunes -- driven by the slick guitar of frontman Jeff Ray and the spastic-but-steady drumming of Heather Snider -- is its biggest strength, even if the process undermines the urge to tap your feet.

Zmrzlina's eclectic approach works brilliantly on the carefully crafted opening track, "Supermarket Radio," in which no effort is spared to provide the creepy ambience of a late-night run to Safeway, where canned hits from the '80s foster bitter, lovelorn reminiscences. After a voice-over introduction from violinist Tracy Hankins, the tune shifts into ripping keyboard solos, weird funk breaks, and robotic vocal exchanges, raising the skeletally simple song to the level of postmodern masterpiece. The mix-and-match method is less successful on "Psychobabble," a tune that also appeared on Zmrzlina's debut CD. This time through, the track has been retooled with a voice-over from local artist Chris Johanson, which, while funny, ultimately detracts from the sweet guitar hook.

Thankfully, such obtrusiveness is kept to a minimum on other tracks, as the band shifts styles without trying to blend too many at once. Continuing its fascination with all things San Francisco, Zmrzlina visits the surf rock confines of "Sutro Tower" and delivers the dot-com diatribe "Kill the Martini Drinker." Toward the end of the album, Ray reveals yet another side of his multifaceted band with "Genealogy," a '70s sing-along soul-type anthem. It's clear from Katastrophe Vol. 3 that Zmrzlina can't decide which side of the art/rock equation it wants to emphasize. But if the group keeps delivering smart, catchy tunes like these, maybe it doesn't have to.

 
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