19 May 2023 sees Reinvent Me, the eagerly awaited debut release from the exciting and powerfully soulful Welsh Quartet Zac and The New Men. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing them perform recently, and since that evening, I have been co-habiting with this album and putting the bottom line up front. These guys should be preparing themselves to take the world by storm.
Zac And The New Men – Reinvent Me
Release Date: 19 May 2023
Words: Sophie James
Combining the driving riffs of classic influences, paired with emotional and melancholic vocals, this release addresses issues affecting the younger generation whilst still maintaining hope. It is a genre-spanning collection very much geared to the modern age.
A fuzzy guitar, punctuated by a thunderous double beat, as Zac plaintively howls over the top, is merely the intro to album opener Say It. A glorious piece of heavy distorted blues with a Velvet Revolver type groove. “I’m waiting for you, to give me a sign, that you want it too?” the first of an armada of hooks. Already, I am back in the room at that recent gig.
The momentum continues with the similarly styled Deeper. One is obviously drawn to that massive riff and imploring, desperate vocal, but there is so much more musicality going on. It takes a few listens to gain a full awareness and appreciation of it. “As I sink deeper into my private black hole. If I aim for the Sun, I’ll surely hit the moon. If I scream with my mouth sewn shut.” Despite the despair in the vocals, live, it is absolutely incendiary, with the colossal guitar refrain commanding onlookers to bounce vigorously, simulating some kind of cathartic release from the writer’s inner torment.
Atom Bomb, as its name may suggest, is a simpler, more direct and exuberant piece. The gang-like chorus of “I told you once, told you twice, told you stop coming back” will inevitably be a tremendous piece of audience participation.
Reinvent Me is deeply self-exploring and has a melody that would not be out of place as an undercurrent in a Bond movie. However, this is far more contemporary. “I should take a second to step back and save my mental health” is a realisation of the commentator’s psychological decline—a situation many are sadly finding themselves in but summoning the courage to open up and speak out. The chorus refrain of “Can I reinvent myself and realise there’s a better me” indicates that this is someone who, while crying out for help, has not yet abandoned hope.
“I was stepping on the fire’s toes.” Watching The World Go possesses another one of those melodies which they are oh so adept at creating. The type that navigates deep into your ear canal only to be relegated by the next exquisite composition. All these draw you in. Their ascendancy sends you, leaving you with an indescribable glow.
I can imagine Embers being a live ‘take the house lights right down moment’ as it leads with a solo vocal. As the other instrumentation enters, it builds into something quite beautiful of anthemic and possibly even chart-bothering proportions. The enunciation of the vocal is something that cannot be described as anything other than majestic. I could say that this number is on par with a certain stadium-filling band at their very, very best. However, I am far too yellow to name names. Back to the stadium analogy – light up the mobiles and launch the drones.
And another that deserves serious chart action. A huge chorus launches That’s OK. “I see you darling in the rain. Trust me I can see your pain.” The ‘lower’ guitar in the mix has such a delightful tone. The lavish mid-section and almost angelic harmony vocals are just one of the many deliciously varying textures of this sumptuous piece. Some songs, you think, I can imagine a choir right here. Now there’s a prospect. A modern classic in the making.
Social Blur caustically addresses the ongoing obsession with social media. “My Generation’s full of lies. Like fake happiness in people’s lives.” Another trademark riff that is only segmented by the Hendrixesque break. “It’s getting worse as we go on”. These lyrics offer no respite. “I’ve watched friends drown in this fake reality. We spend hours with this fake personality”. You get the idea. So much more in here along those lines.
“I just wanna control these thoughts I’m feeling inside”. Birdcage is probably the most out-and-out, foot-to-the-floor rocker here. Very reminiscent of The Winery Dogs (I adore the Winery Dogs and Mr Kotzen), with its racing riff, pumping bass and vocal phrasing. It is probably for these reasons that it has been the opener at recent shows. Mr K would be proud of the solo too.
The Lesson closes the album in much the same way as it started. A colossal, distorted riff alternates with the vocal in the classic call-and-response blues style before uniting for even greater effect. Once more, so many changes of texture and tempo throughout. An accelerating ‘Helter-Skelter’ type portion appears prior to the charge towards the home straight, only easing to pummel us with that aforementioned dirty blues power.
Within all these compositions, there are so many intricate variations on the main themes. Musical subplots that make for an utterly fascinating and satisfying listen. Many of these are swamped in the bluster of the huge riffs and thunderous drums, but on repeated plays, one finds oneself going, ‘That was different’ then ‘That was different’ again’. Resembling a musical advent calendar that gives you something new and tasty every day.
To reiterate, colossal distorted ’70s style riffs with a modern edge, balanced by tender reflective moments. This is an exquisite body of work that showcases prodigious individual and collective talent with extraordinary musicality while simultaneously addressing troubling themes in an insightful and compassionate manner.
Zac has to be complemented on the production job and the manner he has harnessed the energy of his brothers-in-arms and channelled those contributions into fulfilling the sonic tapestry he had envisioned.
One hopes that this release gets the maximum possible exposure and audience, and I believe that come December, this will be up there among many people’s favourite releases of the year.
Zac And The New Men
Vocals/Guitar – Zac Davies
Guitar – Oli Poole
Bass – James Dye
Drums – Will Newman
- Say It
- Atom Bomb
- Reinvent Me
- Watching The World Go By
- That’s OK
- The Lesson