Why on earth would an album recorded 17 years ago, that has more or less failed on two previous occasions, be given yet another chance?
More satisfying than a box of fresh Krispy Kremes following a long night of bad decisions, the debut album from The Knack was a tasty treat when it arrived in stores during the summer of 1979. Although the times certainly were-a-changing, Get the Knack felt like an inspirational aural hug from frontman Doug Fieger himself – clutching his awkward, confused and horny teenage flock close to his bosom – as if to say, “I understand you” – while seemingly reassuring us pizza-faced punks that The Knack could and would take us safely to the “Promised Land” – or at the very least, help us all to get laid.
However, almost immediately following the spectacular platinum-selling success of Get the Knack and its two chart-busting singles; “My Sharona” and “Good Girls Don’t,” came the inevitable backlash. Overnight, the four newly-anointed media darlings became perceived as less than “fab.” But the only crime of which The Knack was ever guilty was perhaps pulling the trigger on their sophomore record prematurely, which likely wasn’t even the band’s decision. Hence, when the equally engaging …But the Little Girls Understand was released in February 1980, just eight months behind the release of its predecessor, it was simply a case of (way) too much, too soon. And by the time the band’s more appropriately timed, (slightly) more experimental third record, Round Trip, arrived in the fall of 1981, that “fat lady” was singing with ear-splitting clarity.
The crunchy So-Cal combo splintered in early 1982, and soon disbanded. In the ensuing decade they reunited, broke up, re-reunited, released an ill-fated “comeback” album, then disintegrated once again. But the roller-coaster story of The Knack was far from finished.
Produced by Richard Bosworth and The Knack, Zoom was released originally during the summer of 1998 and was the band’s fifth studio album. Although it failed at the time to fully reignite their career, Zoom has enjoyed a feline-like existence. It was re-released with three bonus tracks as Re-Zoom in 2003, and in the spring of 2015, it has been given a third shot at bat, with five bonus tracks, via Omnivore Recordings.
The late singer/songwriter and guitarist, Doug Fieger, reunited with perennial members; guitarist and co-songwriter Berton Averre and bassist Prescott Niles along with new recruit, drummer Terry Bozzio to create a simply splendid collection that not only was but is worthy of the impeccable Knack legacy. And after nearly two decades, it stills sounds fresh – boasting plenty of the band’s signature-style snap and tickle.
And I’m not alone in this glowing assessment of Zoom. At the time of its release, music critic Steve Erlewine wrote that it was, “the best album the maligned power-pop band has recorded since their debut.” And author John Borack called the album, “a stunning effort.”
Zoom kicks off strong with the Fieger/Averre-penned, “Pop is Dead” – a ferocious little ankle-biter that would have fit comfortably on Side One of Get the Knack – nestled nicely between “Let Me Out” and “Your Number or Your Name.” Possessing an undeniable hint of Byrds-style, Rickenbacker ching-a-ling, “Can I Borrow a Kiss” is just about as catchy and delightful as any of Fieger and Averre’s previous feel-goods. Other super-fun selections include “Smilin’,” “Terry & Julie Step Out,” “Harder on You” and “Tomorrow” – high-energy treasures that beam golden rays of sunshine into my soul. The Magical Mystery Tour-flavored “(All in The) All in All” will certainly resonate with Beatles aficionados, while the familiar-sounding “Another Lousy Day in Paradise”-meets-“And Your Bird Can Sing” earworm, “Love Is All There Is” also stands out as a notable highlight. Furthermore, Fieger’s heartfelt love ballad, “You Gotta Be There,” just might rank as a personal best. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out that the legendary Mr. Bozzio executed famously, all the flims, flams and rudiments required to make these tracks zing!
In sum, at the risk of compromising my well-guarded journalistic integrity, I’ll just say, “Doggonit, I miss The Knack! And Zoom makes me happy that I’m not dead.”