When Eagles of Death Metal released their debut album in 2004, the garage rockers weren’t under any obligation to have a total of four albums to their (excellent) name a decade later. Frontman Jesse Hughes and the considerably more famous Josh Homme were longtime friends who wanted to make music together, which they did without delusions of grandeur. Zipper Down is the band’s first album in seven years, which is strange considering their beginnings: That debut, Peace Love Death Metal, was recorded in three days, and the band’s second and third albums came in ’06 and ’08, by which point they were a fixture in modern, back-to-basics rock.
One thing about EODM: The old songs sound exactly as good as they did when they first came out. That’s because the sounds they pull from haven’t changed — the list starts with Chuck Berry and Elvis’ rock and roll foundation, onto The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet–Exile on Main St. period, The Ramones’ reliable immediacy, and some This Is Spinal Tap satire thrown in for good measure. But while there are a lot of comparisons to be made, the new album doesn’t so much sound or carry itself like one particular thing as much as it captures the sweaty, fast-living energy that spiritually unites those musicians who preceded it.
Homme has released albums with both Them Crooked Vultures and Queens of the Stone Age since Heart On, so it’s especially good to have the relatively less prolific Hughes back. Boots Electric, The Devil, Fabulous Weapon, whatever you want to call him — he’s one of rock’s undeniable personalities. This comes through in both his live performances and his lyrics, which are relaxed and playful, except when they’re semi-serious and playful. Zipper Down’s “Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.)”, for example, is a parable about L.A. hipsters; the douchey subject’s sense of entitlement (“Don’t you know who I am?”) becomes an admission of self-doubt (“I don’t know who I am”). Still, that typical nonchalance is fine, even the point of this band. It’s not like you need to write an 11-minute song about a woman’s facial features or whatever to be an effective rock lyricist.
While Zipper Down stays true to EODM’s expected sound, it’s still a step forward. The guitar tones churn with more muscle than ever, and the drums smack harder. The album opens with “Complexity”, the same song that kicked off Hughes’ 2011 solo outing as Boots Electric, Honkey Kong. But this version is arranged in sludgier rock form. After all, EODM are still working with a modest vanful of instrumentation (plus backing vocals from Hughes’ fiance, porn star Tuesday Cross). From there, things are usually just as raucous, and out of that cohesive identity emerge individual songs that do what fewer and fewer new rock songs do.
Zipper Down is EODM’s first album since moving to major label Universal, but you wouldn’t know it from any grand flourishes in the music. Sure, it sounds bigger than the band’s first three albums, but this is still EODM we’re talking about, and the standout songs confirm that to be a positive. “Got a Woman” is a hand-clapping, “ooh ooh”-ing slasher that’s deservedly reprised later in the album with “Got a Woman (Slight Return)”. “I Love You All the Time” sweetens the festivities with some country twang, not to mention some lines in that most romantic of languages, French. Later, the cover of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer” is compulsively hummable, and things get religious again with the next song and album closer, one last highlight called “Reverend”, which nods to Hughes’ devout Christianity.
Will it take seven years for EODM to release another album? Hughes would be 50 then, and while it’s probable he’d still be singing about women half his age, Zipper Down has songs that should increase demand and motivate them to release at least one more album this decade. EODM always seemed to ooze their rock and roll spirit effortlessly. While Zipper Down comes with a major label’s stamp, it never feels far from EODM’s cigarette-ashy, beer-splashed beginnings or, for that matter, the era-transcending music that inspires them. Like Hughes and his signature ’70s-indebted mustache, Zipper Down makes familiarity refreshing.
Essential Tracks: “Got a Woman”, “Save a Prayer”, and “Reverend”