Review: Citizen Zero – State of Mind

Citizen Zero logo 192Citizen Zero are a new band to me, and likely you, despite them having been around for five or six years. They’re toured with POD and Highly Suspect, but I highly suspect (see what I did there) that these appearances have been Stateside. The band are from Detroit and they have one previous release, an EP from 2012.

State of Mind is their debut album and there are high hopes for this nicely middle-of-the-road rock act. Sometimes it’s good to know your audience and to play it safe rather than trying to break molds that make perfectly good jellies. Or whatever else you make in molds. Citizen Zero cite such acts as Van Halen, QotSA, GnR and Shinedown as their influences – the kind of bands that have huge popularity for that very reason.

The opener “What a Feeling” has more of an early Foo Fighters vibe to it, though frontman Josh LeMay has a different vocal style compared to that guy who used to play drums for Nirvana. It’s a non-stop driving song that even during its quiet moments seems to be urging you on towards the end. The chorus, though, is belting.

Current single “Go (Let Me Save You)” is a much lighter affair and a surprise choice to publicise the album in my opinion. What is does show is that they’re happy to bounce around inside this genre that we call “rock” and not be tied down to the harder end of the scale. It does grow into something more powerful, but takes a little time to get there whereas “What a Feeling” kicks in from the very start. Both are very good songs, don’t get me wrong, I’d just personally have gone with the former. Having said that, the shred-laden solo towards the end is akin to Slash at his best, though given that it comes from a guitarist who writes a column in Guitar World (Sammy Boller) telling people exactly how to do this kind of thing, he should know his stuff.

“Save The Queen” isn’t a non-denominational version of the UK national anthem. Instead, it’s a rock song with a story; throaty vocals tell of a woman of “gold and silver” who the singer has put on a pedestal. The title track recalls good old-fashioned rock n’ roll of the highest order – fast-paced and catchy with a great “get the audience clapping” break before the first minute is out. It’s songs like this that tell you Citizen Zero are pandering to the live scene.

The album has examples of so many different flavours of rock: the balls out rocker (“Lure and Persuade”), the heavy barnstormer (“When The Rain Comes”), the slow and heartfelt ballad (“Home”), and more.

These days a debut album has to be something special to really stand out from a quickly deepening crowd. Rest assured, State of Mind is something special. Is it the best rock album ever? No, of course not. But given the chance to build on it, Citizen Zero certainly stand a chance of getting close to that with future releases. The talent here is undeniable. Give them a chance – I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Pick of the tracks are “What A Feeling” at one end of the scale and “Home” at the other – coincidentally the first and last tracks.

State of Mind is out on August 15th.

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