Ceremonyís previous records showed an increasing interest in breaking the hardcore mold, but Zoo is a total departure from anything resembling traditional punk rock. Zoo isnít Fucked Upís populist bombast or The Menís deliberately unfocused experimentalism; itís an attempt at nailing a specific garage/post-punk hybrid. Specifically, Zoo gestures towards the snotty-yet-emotive bravado of The Hunches, in addition to the repetition and starkness of Wire and their British cohorts.
Gesturing, though, is just about all it does. Most of Zoo sounds as if Ceremony went down a bulleted list of those bandsí most distinguishing qualities, mixed them with playing hardcore at one-third speed, and called it a day. As it turns out, a stab at mixing Bridge 9-style hardcoreís hilarious lack of nuance with minimalist post-punk that consists of little besides nuance ends up being about as ill-advised as it sounds. Vocalist Ross Farrar has abandoned his 1980s-NYHC style for a preening, affected shout thatís completely free of any character. Ceremonyís rhythm section, rather than taking the approach of creatively filling the gaps in plodding, often-atonal arrangements, plays it about as straight as possible.
Genre formalism aside, Zoo is boring, and reeks of an ďif we sound like this, weíll be taken seriouslyĒ sensibility thatís way more of a bummer than any lack of Peter Hook basslines. Itís tough to blame anybody for finding the í80s-hardcore formula restricting, but in terms of breaking away from the formulaís conventions, Zoo comes across as Ceremony protesting too much.