What does it mean to be an adult? This is a question I ask my self almost daily. After all at 35, I look more like a kid then ever. I suspect I act more like a kid now then I did when I was at an age where most people still wouldn’t have considered me an adult.
Adulthood. Blech. I’ve fought joining along with it my entire life. It seemed soft and full of compromise for the sake of others and not for what was right. And sure, I grew fat and slow physically, but I look at the pictures of my friends on facebook, and I don’t see faces I relate to anymore a lot of the times. And it doesn’t always have to do with marriage and jobs and kids. Those things change you, sure. Family should change you. But it shouldn’t transform you into something unrecognizable to the people you grew up with. Neither should jobs or relationships. And while I’d like to think I’ve grown and progressed, I am fairly certain I have never devolved into some shell of a human being.
This is what Ceremony wants us to believe on its controversial new album Zoo. The world of adults is nothing but boredom, failure, ugliness and monotony. And in so many ways, this is a convincing record carrying that message. Unfortunately, even I have to admit now that their legacy as a hardcore band complicates the effectiveness of their message. Zoo is one of those albums where the messengers’ own story gets in the way of the art.
I should first say, that I enjoy this album. From start to finish, it’s a great punk record, pulling on a great number of influences and finally adopting that Joy Division worship into something familiar. Zoo is a gritty, garage punk album with tastes of the genre that spans its existence. The guitars are sharp and cutting as Ceremony has always been known for and Russ Farrar still sounds like damaged goods, though he’s clearly changed the cadence of his voice.
What’s hard to swallow, as a fan of this band though, is the radical change in sound. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s fantastic. But this is not the Ceremony I have grown to know and love over the last two years. It is an entirely new band, with only scant aspects of their former, face splitting, floor rolling, spit, piss and blood identity. This album, unlike anything they’ve done previously is palpable. Even their contract required covers EP, which was horrid, was at least unlistenable and grotesque. And for a band of Ceremony’s history, with a carnal nature hell-bent on self-destruction rather than introspection, this feels like a safe bet. Especially considering the theme of the album is all about growing up.
Here’s where I get tripped up. They have this great anthem at the center of the album called “Adult” and it literally asks “How did we get so old?”. But is that question of its audience or of the band itself that seems to have “slowed down”? Farrar even goes so far as to suggest that being an adult means giving up the things we love, suggesting that passion will always lose out to comfort and security. And I’m not going to lie, comfort and security are two things I too am looking for. But not at the expense of myself, of doing the things I love, of expressing myself, even when that expression seems immature and juvenile to my peers who used to stand in solidarity with me.
And so, to my ears, Zoo is a safe bet because it sounds like a safe bet. Everything is crisp and clear and clean. I don’t want to smash my head through a window as Ceremony has nearly inspired of me. It doesn’t inspire me to yell, not in the same fashion as past efforts, but it does bother me at a certain level. Because I want people to age and get increasingly angry, upset and invested, because they should be engaged in the world around them. Because as an adult I have learned that those who occupy the financial power in this world, they want you to be excluded, to feel content and relaxed, but not engaged. And I have never felt more alienated by the world around me then I do as an adult. Which isn’t to say I don’t have awesome friends my age that chose to live in opposition of a world that makes it increasingly more difficult just to get by. But again, I’ve seen so many faces from my past, and I don’t recognize them that much anymore. It’s not because they’ve changed physically as they’ve aged, but that reckless abandonment where they were willing to fight and love is gone. Zoo feels like that kind of resign, that kind of containment. Maybe that’s the point I am missing, but it’s not easy to see.