Reviewed by Norm Dixon
When the six major multinational record companies which dominate the Australian recording industry were under pressure to justify the high prices consumers are forced to pay for CDs, they claimed loudly that some of this loot was made available to find and develop local talent.
Needless to say, most punters are rather dubious about the claim as they witness the majors flood the shops with anything that charts in the US or washed-out old Australian popsters from the Countdown generation, while throughout Australia talented new performers struggle along unrecorded or signed to cash-strapped independent labels. The amazing success of Christine Anu is an encouraging exception.
If evidence is needed of the majors continuously neglecting top talent, you need only listen to Sydney-based band Karma Zoo's self-financed eponymous six-track EP. This is a great pop record that should be given the radio play and media hype so often reserved only for those the corporate power brokers deign to give the nod to. With just a fraction of the publicity budgets given to the awful outpourings of the Farnhams, Barnesys, Minogues and Braithwaites of this world, Karma Zoo would be scooting up the charts.
Karma Zoo have a distinctive and fresh sound that is a timely departure from Frente/Crowded House fairy floss that has dominated Australian pop music in recent years. Pop with oomph!
The band describes its music as a "harmonious blend of Australian, Chilean, Irish and Koori cultures". The band is a healthy mix of suburban pub rock power and inner-city innovation. Lead singer Michelle Waller's voice is strong and hefty, somewhat in the league of Deb Conway and Christine Amphlett.
Sean Doyle's heavy but intelligent guitar work is shown to best effect in "Ultra Violet" and "Rash", a tune with the power and adrenalin of metal without banality and silliness. Matthew Coy's percussion and Jorge Perez's bass give each song a fervent yet solid grounding. On several tracks, the nice addition of guest violinist Sam Fonti results in something more than the sum of the parts.
Lyrically, most of the songs are poetic and angst-ridden, but their overall message remains something of a mystery.
Karma Zoo's debut EP is available through Disculture, phone (02) 519 3101 or fax (02) 557 1070. Karma Zoo can be contacted on (02) 629 1960.