New Jersey folk rockers EdTang & the Chops are back with their follow-up to 2009’s Songs From Under Weigh, with the introspective and expressive Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner. Although the title is abstract enough to sound either like the coolest record ever or the most pretentious dreck ever, luckily the album falls into the former category, with nine songs of pure aggro folk making up the beautiful experience of nostalgia that the album offers.
Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner is chock full of melancholy singles and wistful melodies. EdTang & the Chops state the record is about the struggle between youth and adulthood, an “introspective look into the line that separates the dates of a headstone” that focuses on “hope, longing, and the waning twilight of youth.” The best part of all of this is that the band actually succeeds in conveying their message through its simplicity of sound.
Even in regards of the production, the album sounds like a throwback a lot of times. The most rocked out track on the album, “Beware of a Dog,” sounds like a song long-lost in the alt rock vault of the 1990s, while closing track “Bill, I Believe This is Killing Me” is in the vein of late-80s Billy Bragg. The band doesn’t give in to unnecessary trappings to glamorize their production – sticking to the bare minimums, EdTang & the Chops instead rely on their musical talent and lyrical prowess to put forward an album full of passion, grit, and tinges of reminiscence.
The album takes you back to a time when everything was better and things were simpler. Even if you’re only 12 years old, Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner will be serving up some past life realness. Songs like pub-anthem “My Whole Life” and the upbeat “Recharged” make you want to sing at the top of your lungs, while the more subdued “Just Two Old Friends” and the beautifully serenading “Pualei” are effective in their sadness-with-a-smile message. The layers of female vocals against the gruff vocals of lead singer EdTang throughout the album make for a striking juxtaposition, and further accentuate the dreamy ambiance of all the songs.
Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner is a hardcore trip back into the past, a trip that works hard in bringing up feelings of lost youth, lost loves, and lost innocence. The punk folk vibe of the record will be appreciated by fans of Gaslight Anthem, Billy Bragg, and Rancid. Minimalist yet deep-seating, the album is a celebration of closure of the one thing that no one on the planet can ever change: the past.
-Rishbha Bhagi, KXSC Intern