Donny Zuzula • Chemicals

Tosspint Goes Solo

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, , Artist Feature,   From Issue 883   By: Matt deHeus

06th August, 2019     0

When Andy Reed sent me the rough mixes of Donny Zuzula’s first solo record, Chemicals, I was torn for a couple of reasons.  First, though I dabbled in the Ramones, Replacements and Husker Du in college, I was no punk.  I was not sure I had the vocabulary to do this record justice.   

The second thing, as I relayed to Reed, is writing a review of this album was going to feel like I was critiquing another man’s soul.  I wasn’t sure I had the vocabulary for that, either.

Finally, weighing largely to the fact that Donny dug down within himself to make this record for us, I decided that I owed it to the music to give it a rip myself.

Many will know Zuzula as one of the visceral forces behind the Celtic-inspired punk outfit, the Tosspints.  Others might know him as one of the most interesting follows on social media.  Musician.  Craftsman / inventor.  Doting dad.  Owner of the uneasy mantle of modern American war veteran.  He’s worth getting to know and through Chemicals, Zuzula allows us to inside his world.

Zuzula is pretty clear in his musical influences.  The first was his father, who introduced him to classic folk rock, like Neil Young.  It was the type of entry that allowed him an easy portal to the world of punk rock as he developed his own musical tastes.

His wheelhouse, on full display on this recording, is a hard edged, folk influenced rock that is probably too accomplished to call punk at this point.  Story telling trumps rhyme scheme, for one.  There’s also an honesty in delivery that can only be achieved when you are speaking about the truths you discover through experience.

The album opener, Alive, sets the tone for the disk.  With thick layers of melodic guitars, it reminded me immediately of some of my favorite Bob Mould moments.  You might also start to guess that Zuzula and Dave Grohl probably had some similarity in their teenage record catalogs.  In what is probably a first among all the albums I have reviewed for the magazine, I actually hooked into the energy of this song so quickly that I literally pumped my first when it hit the chorus.

“Another Shot” displays something that was characteristic of the second generation of punks that was somewhat absent from the first.  These guys were actually good at their instruments.  Fact is, you play along with enough records, suddenly you don’t suck and it comes in handy when writing songs.  This song has a killer guitar riff, one of several moments on this record that is going to appeal to fans of aggressive, gut pumping guitar sounds.

If Chemicals has a “concept” it would seem to be a guy working some things out.  Mostly with himself.  Sometimes with a friend, probably named something like Jim or Jack or Johnny.

On songs like “Never Go Back”, “Empty and Gone” and the title track, Zuzula dials it back a gear, channeling an eerier more ethereal side of folk music.   And occasionally drinking your issues into submission.

“Nothing Left To Say” and “Any Other Day” are both driving melodic rockers, which display another trademark of Zuzula’s work, that that is backing harmony vocal parts.  Zuzula points to Bad Religion in this regard as an influence.  It is an underrated part of many of the classic punk bands, dating back to the Ramones.  The backing chant or “marching line” call and response are natural partner for the rhythmic cadences of punk rock.

The album continues to roll along with the Richard Thompson meets Warren Zevon epic “Turn Away” and “Sleep Is For The Weak” will remind you why cow punk was one of the coolest ever genres.  (Certainly the one with coolest name)

In all, Chemicals is a figurative Tour De Force.  It’s a beautiful statement of melodic noise.  A life’s work about the work of life.  If we gave ratings, this one would get seven stripes.

Chemicals is available in limited edition vinyl, CD and digital download via all the usual outlets. 




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