First of all, I highly recommend you listen to the EP I’m about to review while you read it. It makes for a much more thorough and meaningful experience. Click now … good, now we’ll begin.
Zen is a big bear. He is well over 6 foot and has a sturdy frame that brings an unmistakable presence to whatever space he’s inhabiting. He sings, writes and plays guitar for the Bay Area Power Pop Rock band Please Do Not Fight out of Redwood City. On any given night of the week, Zen can be found doing something to support the Bay Area music community. In some senses, Zen is a traditional folk artist—a man of and for the community he ascribes to. Whether it’s hanging out at other bands shows, playing one of his own, hosting an open mic, connecting musicians together or giving guitar lessons to youth he’s out there in the music community breathing much-needed life and enthusiasm into everything he does. This is something we need more of in our community of artists in the Bay Area and I would go as far to say in any community anywhere.
Now I could go off about what a great guy Zen is for a while but alas this is a review of he and his band’s latest record “Move” released toward the end of 2009.
The album starts off with a very Weezer-esque tune “I Will Not Forget”. I hear a bit of The World Has Turned in this song and it’s welcomed joyfully. It’s a good opener as it gives listeners a preview of the many faces of Please Do Not Fight—male/female vocal interplay, rock solid and inventive drumming, great melodic guitar and bass work and fantastic songwriting.
Words Speak Louder is PDNF’s rock song. It’s the song that plays with dynamics the best and has an addictive hook in the back and forth interplay during the verses where the bass drops out and comes in with ripping drums over and over again and then the ferocious repeated chorus line which almost sounds like a pre-chorus “Are you feeling left out?”. I could listen to that back and forth on repeat for hours.
BAMF tips it’s proverbial hat to Death Cab for Cutie, an obvious and wonderful mentor for the band. It’s well put together coming off of an almost melancholy rhythm brought to life by the steady tom rolls of drummer Kubes and the melodic yet driving guitar playing of Geoff McCann.
I couldn’t help but think that many of these songs would fit well stripped down with the acoustic guitar, a shuffling drumbeat, standup bass, and a little whiskey to bring out the southern drawl I know Zen has deep down inside him somewhere. It’s more of a strange fantasy but this inclination comes out strong in songs like “Please Don’t Wipe Your Smile Off Your Face”.
“Up Up Up “ screams early Motion City Soundtrack which is awesome. Producer Aaron Hellam’s studio magic works perfectly throughout the EP but exceptionally well on this track. It’s full, alive and full of passion. I almost wanted the breakdown halfway through the song to take twice as long and really build since it reminded me of Weezer’s “Only in Dreams” as it drops to a solid bass line with sparse ride symbol however, it also fits the in-your-face energy of the song as is and keeps it tight and short, to the point.
For a six-song EP this album takes you through quite the emotional spectrum. There are frustrated angsty songs akin to the late 90’s pop-punk movement which are welcome elements to the more polished and sometimes sentimental 2000 something indie rock songwriting all over this album. Make no mistake Please Do Not Fight is a loud rock band but there is also a sweet little songwriting element that pervades all the songs on this EP and that makes it more accessible to a wider audience than just grungy club goers and scenesters. The EP ends with a mellow rock song called “Hard to Tell”. It lets you down easy after a wild ride with an acoustic guitar backing the entire song. The vocal duet between Zen and keyboardist/violinist/vocalist Erin Keely refraining on the lyric “We just need more time” at the end of the song is perfect. You’ve got all the time in the world Please Do Not Fight and I can’t wait to see and hear what new songs you come up with in the coming years.
Listen to and purchase “Move” by visiting Please Do Not Fight’s Bandcamp page here: http://pleasedonotfight.bandcamp.com