In music the passions enjoy themselves
Those of you who keep up with the rumblings in the music scene in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan cannot help but wonder what happened to the fertile genius minds of our best musicians. The growth of ennui and decline of public support has fed an intractable inertia that seems to have a vise grip on the ebb and flow of positive energy.
Writing original music has always been a mixed blessing to working bands everywhere. You could certainly make more money by playing the hits of the day or live karaoke for the masses that takes little thought or imagination. This would be something akin to purgatory or eternal damnation for those musicians who live for that invisible spark - that voice that whispers inspiration to you while your mind and soul are quiet and open.
It's this tension between creativity and hope that keeps Don Zuzula going. He has created an impressive body of work in a short period of time. Zuzula would be the first to correct my kaleidoscope vision of the Tosspints. He knows just as I do that he could not have so cleanly sculpted the rhythm and flow of the band without band mates Johnny Johnson and Zak Zuzula. They are the counterpoint and the scaffold for the darkest visions in his raging mind and the beauty of his truth.
Zuzula has composed several Celtic-drinking songs that pose alcohol not so much of a problem but as a solution. The lasting aspects of his craft reside in his ability to communicate with the tone of his voice, the posture of his body and the muscle in his face and hands. He has presence and almost effortless energy whenever he's onstage.
The Tosspints are at a creative peak with the release of their spectacular Cenosillicaphobia in 2011 in vinyl as well as downloads and CDs. And now the release of Have You Been Drinking is the third installment of exceptional music that is linked by common themes. Pain and addiction co-exist with love and recovery. They cannot be separated or stand alone. One needs the other to find meaning in the suffering.
Listen and astound. This is The Tosspints:
#1 Genocide is Painless
Begins with a slowed down minor chord riff that shifts suddenly to a heavy metal work out that matches the theme of destruction and annihilation
The staff sergeant cries out
Rape the women
And kill every last man
VOICE: What about the children?
Response: Send them to hell
This segues to double time speed. Zak's bass is a rapid fire explosion of sound. He's up and down the fret like he's playing lead guitar. Uncle Don blankets the sound and brings it up and over the bass line, weighing-in with an e-string counterpoint. It ends like a drone without a conscious…
Rape the women; kill the men
#2 Soldiers Heart takes no prisoners - its 4/4/ beat is pure rock yet speeded up with a punk sensibility and an incredible if incongruent vibrato surf guitar. It gets serious when Uncle Don's shotgun guitar sounds more like a weapon than an instrument. The cost of war is much greater when you add up all the quiet desperation and violent endings of the soldiers who lost their soul in battle and drowned in the ocean of lies from the government. Zak sings his ass off; he's getting better all the time:
The struggles of a daily life, the nightmares of the past
The thoughts that terrorize the mind, the pain that ever lasts
It's the battle to be normal from the battles that were fought
To give everything for your country just to come back half a man.
So I drink because I couldn't say I'm sorry
Drink because I cannot be alone
Drink for mistakes that I have made and all the troubles that come my way
But mostly I drink because I don't feel like a man anymore
#3 Our Last Breath
Don's natural tenor is expressive and nuanced - less is more. Cow punk mandolin adds some depth and the vibrato guitar adds some relief from the unrelenting sorrow. The singer may be buzzin' on whisky and cocaine but it's killing his soul. He realizes that his problem was a solution that didn't work very well in the long run. She couldn't hang on while he was away and she began another affair while he contemplated a different ending. He sings…
What could be more romantic than to die by the light of the moon
And I hold you so tight
As I plunge us right through
And I hear that you call yourself "friends"
But I tell you that's something I just can't understand
Because of that old rye whiskey
And that snow white cocaine
No I won't let you do this again
As the cold and the flow of the current
Takes us to our last breath
I look deeply into your eyes
"Till death do us part" was that vow that I made
#4 Shoot at All the Cops
It's the sound of a world created by a dark vision - inner city warfare, death and addiction, the loss of beauty and meaning. We have left very little for the young and opportunities are fading. Hope is on the run. This is the prescription for the extinction of our species. The insistent reggae beat and organ backdrop only accentuates the hopelessness. The inner city warriors are now an armed force of occupation. When the revolution comes the cops will run back to the suburbs.
Well they shoot at all the cops
And they shoot at all the bums
They beat up all the hookers
And they do it just for fun
They do it for the money
And they do it for the fame
They do it for the drugs
But they do it just the same
Well they shoot and then they shoot and then they shoot a little more
Till the blood runs down to the ER floor
They do it cause they're tired and do it cause they're poor
Just another dying soldier in an inner city war
Well the young shoot the young
And the young shoot the old
Why do it for the Army, you can do it here at home
#5 My Own Country
Love the speeded up Hang on Sloopy tom-tom beat on the middle eight. Zuzula's guitar phrasing is inspired. He stretches out with lightening fast chordal strumming to a string of rapid fire string of notes that sound like their shot out of a Budget Glock. This is a patriotic song that takes a strong unflinching vow to protect the empire
#6 Grain Robber Long
This is a furious punk rocker doing double time with vibrato guitar. Zuzula's is telling an ancient story, a song for the ages. It's a pastoral ode to a long ago wild west. This is a song with a vision that seems to be inspired by Clint Eastwood's movie, The Unforgiven. Zuzula's musical landscape is like an old tattered 1860's Daguerreotype, grainy and barely recognizable, similar to the protagonist's murky integrity.
#7 Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye
This is a punked up version of Johnny Comes Marching Home, a popular song of the American Civil War. The author Patrick Gilmore wrote the song under the pseudonym of Louis Lambert. The writer admitted that he “heard someone humming it during the early days of the rebellion. He took a fancy to it, wrote it down, dressed it up, gave it a name and rhymed it into usefulness.”
#8 Come Out Ye Black & Tans
This is a rebel song that refers to the English paramilitary police (the Black & Tans), an auxiliary force of occupation in Ireland in the 1920's. It is a reference to the rise of Irish nationalism in the wake of British imperialism.
I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they walked all over us,
And every night when me da come home tight
He'd invite the neighbors outside with this chorus:
#9 Message in a Bottle is supercharged storytelling molded into a 4/4 beat with Johnny Johnson pounding the crap out of those skins. This is Dave Clark Five meets the Nashville Teens and they're both on steroids. It's an ancient tale about a shipwreck, all is lost and hope is all but gone.
This is an acoustic ballad about loving well and losing hard. He's looking into the abyss but pushing it back before he succumbs to its allure. She saved his life through the healing touch of love, saying it out loud and making it real. It's worth living for Zuzula's primal scream rivals a Janov session with John Lennon. His vocal chords are shredded as he spits out the words in fear that he'll never be able to say it or hold it…love
#11 Your Name
A quiet acoustic tribute to Zuzula's father and the enduring love that sustains him as he becomes a father himself. He will remember the lessons learned by his father's side and in his absence. This is a love story, similar to the message in Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens. You want him to live forever but you know he never will. The memories will sustain his image. It's hard to let go
#12 Blood and Whisky
This is a war song, opens with syncopated beats raging rock guitar kicks it up a notch. Zuzula hard and heavy guitar work out is reminiscent of Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick) on I Want You To Want Me. This is a rockin' masterpiece that reveals the pockmarked face of hell. Zuzula asks many pertinent questions based in a melancholy knowing the reality of life as it. He is able to humanizing the enemy. This is the road to peace
Zuzula is singing for the survival of our species, years of traumatizing and neglecting our children will lead to our extinction. Does anything matter at all when facing senseless violence?
In this song Zuzula considers the enemies point of view…sorrow, death, blood and a fight for life on both sides of the conflict. He wonders if a moral imperative even exists. The song concludes with an accapella re-reading of the basic themes in the song. Stunning!
To date each of Tosspints LPs have contained at least one brilliant song. This is it.
The Tosspints will be performing at White's Bar on November 16th with special guests The Stone Clovers and The Hex Bombs.