ZASKA is the eight-piece funk band brainchild of guitarist and Wicklow native Max Zaska. On their debut EP ‘In Your Own Sweet Time’, no song quite stands still.
The album opens bouncily with She Gunk Gunk Dunk A Funk; the vocals crossing back and forth between Zaska and Karen Cowley with lyrics about how many permutations of the word funk are possible. The song is light and quick, playing with time signatures before breaking midway into a strolling groove and guitar solo.
It’s all a bit jam-band-y and at times the vocals come across as the gibberish of an Anthony Keidis impersonator. It also doesn’t say much for the rest of the EP that this is the best song on here.
Hold Your Head Up High has frontman Max Zaska’s rap interspersed with cuckoo clocks and other sound effects that one guesses are supposed to be wacky. The song takes its time getting to the chorus, and the bridges beforehand steer alarmingly close to the flaccid sort of smooth jazz that one might hear on their Sky programme menu.
The chorus kicks in eventually towards the song’s close and is a solid sing along, almost making up for the previous five minutes. Almost. With tired lines like, “With their miniskirts up it’s a miracle they don’t freeze”, and cringy skats such as “city-it-itty-centre”, it never fully redeems itself.
Running frenetically through funk to jazz and rap, there’s a palpable sense of play and fun running throughout, but it lacks coherence. At times it sounds like waiting-room music, at others frantic and confused, but always kind of aimless.
Influences are telegraphed, all over, with a line from Cockles and Mussels briefly interrupting Hold Your Head Up High and the opening track lifting the timeless refrain from Wilson Pickett’s Land of 1000 Dances.
The verse vocals on My Rock are lovely – Karen Cowley’s performance is easily one of the album’s finer aspects – and even the distorted military-march that the songs breaks into, with sparse layers of instruments, is intriguing. The refrain that it all leads into though sounds bloated and somehow glittery. It doesn’t help that Zaska’s rap here is such a non-sequiter that it borders on grating. All that can be said about album closer and namesake, Our Own Sweet Time. It is almost awe-inspiringly forgettable. Almost.
With nearly all the goods in the opening track and the rest equal parts limpid chill-out music and interesting-but-lacking stabs at experimentation, there are enjoyable moments on here but they are unfortunately in too short supply. Download the opener and if it grabs you give the rest a listen. There’s a lot of potential here – just not a whole lot of it realized.