Zapoppin’ pulled a conceptual April Fools’ joke when they released St Kreun: Songs of Land and Waterways on the first day of the month. The harmonium and banjo that lead the tales of rural life near the crumbling Kreun dam typically would signify a folksy concept album tinged with nostalgia. Nope! Their self-described “powerskiffle” owes more to thrashy punk and the synthetic side of new wave. St Kreun is not a pastoral stroll along a stream; it’s roughneck horseplay that will get you kicked out of the pool.
I first gave it a listen on April 2, the day after it was released. The lead track, “Belnot Phist’s Hanging Jig,” was a jaunty banjo instrumental that set up false folk expectations. The second track, “’Dam,” began with the sound of rushing water, but turned into a lurching adrenalin rush. My wife Liz walked into the bedroom when “Hate So Hard” was playing. She said, “It sounds like Interpol fronted by Ian Curtis,” and “It sounds like Naked Raygun, but if they were 15 year olds.” I couldn’t argue with her, Interpol already sounds like they’re fronted by Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. The comparison to Chicago punk stalwarts Naked Raygun was a little more of a stretch, but not totally unwarranted. “Hate So Hard” features a band shout along. Zapoppin’, Naked Raygun, Joy Divison and Interpol share similar overdriven vocals. If I had to cite a band for comparison, I would go with pacifist folk-punks This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb. However, Zapoppin’ is more left field than left wing.
If there is nostalgia to St Kreun, it hearkens back to the spirit of ’77. The reminiscence is not dewy-eyed. There’s a relentless pinion beat to “Gettin’ Cultish” and the profane “Stuckists’ Luck.” “Kreun Murmurings” shows that Zapoppin’ continues to listen to keyboard-driven new wavers Ultravox, even after covering their “Hiroshima Mon Amour” on the Powerskiffle: Rare! collection. “Kreun Murmurings” even adds decidedly Tuxedomoon sax skronkings.
Their previous album Ugly Musick was deliberately off-putting. For that, I salute them. The new one cleans them up, but there’s plenty of bilge to their barge.
St Kreun: Songs of Land and Waterways is available at https://zapoppin.bandcamp.com.