w/ Living Laser and the Suicide Dolls. $10, 7 p.m., June 13. The Space, 295 Treadwell St., Building H, Hamden, (203) 288-6400, thespace.tk.
The first thing that comes to Anthony Anzaldo's mind when he thinks about the word "zoo" is the letter Z and the end of the alphabet. When he thinks about what zoos actually represent and contain, he comes up with "the obvious imagery" of "caged creatures." Not surprisingly, he quickly amends his answer after saying that, well aware of where this line of questioning is headed. "Obviously, I have a different perception of the word now that the last few months of our lives have been dedicated to this piece of art called Zoo," the guitarist says, "and now [the word is] associated consciously with the album and the themes of the record, which are, in layman's terms, how we all treat each other in different walks of life."
The above "our" refers to his band Ceremony, who indeed put out an album — their third — called Zoo in March. (Vocalist Ross Farrar, who devised the name, explained his decision in a manifesto: "The title Zoo comes from the idea that we're all living in a world that has been heavily structured for us, by us, which feels strange because no other civilization has been so extensive in furthering comfort, entertainment, schedule and basic living.") To a small degree, Zoo shares thematic similarities with Rohnert Park, Ceremony's 2010 album written about the suburban North Bay, Calif., city most of the group grew up in. In a 2010 Folio Weekly interview, Farrar described his youth in Rohnert Park as being "kind of shitty" and noted enough blasé details — the city's flatness, how its neighborhoods are alphabetized by housing values — to make him sound like he was once a confined animal just riding his bike and skateboarding until he would be able to escape.
But that's where the clear links between Zoo and Rohnert Park fade. Ceremony has retooled their aesthetic on this new record. The group started in 2005, building the group's rep on dark, hurricane-like hardcore punk that endears itself to circle pits and all-ages singalongs. Zoo shows how far they've come, liquifying the group's doomed sonic tantrums and pouring them into a new, more colorful mould. The Ceremony of 2012 takes notes from post-punk, goth rock and garage rock acts like Joy Division, the Cramps, the Cure and Christian Death. Speeds decrease when necessary, anger softens into confusion and contemplation, and Farrar's bile-burning shouts change into cleaner, more melodic vocals. There were hints of such developments on Rohnert Park, but nothing there comes close to this.
In an interview with Punknews.org last year, Farrar described the then-in-progress Zoo as "weirder" than Rohnert Park, which Anzaldo has a few thoughts on. "Relative to where we come from, it is [weird], but in the broad spectrum of music in general, it's probably the most cohesive and accessible music that we've written," he says.
Ceremony have experienced one other major change in the past year. After achieving serious success with signing venerable hardcore experimenters Fucked Up in 2008, indie rock label Matador Records inked Ceremony to a deal last summer and are subsequently responsible for issuing Zoo. This record is Ceremony's first release to share a label with Pavement, Sleater-Kinney and Yo La Tengo, which is certainly not the kind of company you'd expect for a group who regularly facilitate wild mosh pits.
Still, Ceremony has always left substantial room for maneuverability within their aesthetic. Even though they've been a band since its core members were in or just about to be out of high school, they don't seem like the type to second-guess any big decisions or changes. Anzaldo certainly can't count any regrets from the beginning. "It's all pieces in the puzzle, and it all is relative and helped shape the band it's become today, so I don't want to say that everything happens for a reason or anything like that, but as far as regrets or things I would change, I know why we've done everything that we've done and why we did it at the time," he says. "It's all an experience."
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