The Zombies featuring Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent Breathe Out, Breathe In Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A respectable album, but also puzzling and almost painfully self-conscious.

Sean Egan 2011

Lead singer Colin Blunstone and virtuoso keyboardist Rod Argent are present and correct from the original quintet for this new Zombies album, while original bassist Chris White co-writes a couple of tracks. However, though this goes some way toward dispelling the smack of flying under a flag of convenience which afflicts so many 60s band reunions, this music rarely sounds like The Zombies we remember, and this can’t be put down solely to the alien presence of bassist Jim Rodford, drummer Steve Rodford and guitarist Tom Toomey.

When the opening title-track reveals itself to be breathy pop, the fact that it is a world removed from brooding fare like Zombies signature song She’s Not There seems unimportant: it’s a highly agreeable concoction and one is happily aware that musos of these men’s age rarely sound so peppy. However, when Blunstone’s Any Other Way (the sole song written with no input from Argent) turns out to be in a similarly sun-dappled mode despite its melancholy lyric, and when the Abbey Road-esque Shine on Sunshine transpires to feature the tweeting of birds just in case we don’t get the life-affirming message, it begins to seem like this peppiness is affected. Even the lack of gaps between songs feels designed to add to the artfully guileless air.

Not that all ties to the sophisticated past are cut. Jazzy, off-kilter time signatures maintain the bespectacled gravitas that led The Zombies to become one of the first bands to record a concept album, while there is plenty of the type of elegant, dazzling keyboard work for which Argent is renowned.

The relentless musical frothiness becomes almost paradoxical in contrast to the sometimes edgy lyrics of the slinky Play It For Real, the funky Show Me the Way and the flamenco-flavoured A Moment in Time. Yet, interestingly enough, it’s only when The Zombies try to get serious in both music and lyric that the album falls down: Christmas for the Free, a solemnly delivered querulous song about Yuletide, is too inchoate to have impact, while the muscular pop-rock domestic bellyache Another Day is somewhat banal.

Breathe Out, Breathe In is a very respectable piece of work, but the main thought it provokes is that it is a puzzling and almost painfully self-conscious attempt to put distance between The Zombies and the minor-chord moodiness that made their reputation.

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