Young Heavy Souls
Zilched is the non-de-plume of Detroit’s Chloe Drallos; she has been making music under this alias since 2017. She released her début ep, Pulling Teeth, in 2018, and since has put out a string of singles. This is her first long player. The album grows out the universal experience of growing up and the challenges this presents presents to our mental health. Heavily influenced by the classics Psychocandy (The Jesus and Marychain) and Nevermind (Nirvana), the touchstones of my teenage years as well, she explains
It’s an honest reflection of my attempts to grow up and make sense of absurdity. I wrote the first song in my last month of high school at 18 and finished recording/producing just a month after my 20th birthday. With these songs I wanted to go as deep into my insecurities and confusion, however immature I felt. Just write what I felt when I felt it in order to move on.
I can dig, those teenage years were insane, and it is interesting to think about how they have been mined by artists, perhaps most notably by Kurt Cobain himself.
DOOMPOP begins with a very Eric Erlandson (Hole) riff on ‘Blue Doom,’ a song that then develops around a heavy bassline and a straight ahead drum beat, and Drallos sings:
I’m coming out of blue
It smells a lot like doom
I’m complaining about nothing
And it’s all coming true
I feel it down my spine
Can’t see it with my eyes
Well plain sights too hard to come by
When you’re falling behind.
I have been listening to this album a lot since I got it last month, in part because it evokes the familiar, in part because Drallos writes great songs, partly because of her voice, and partly the lyrics. She may be singing about growing up in high school around Detroit, but the line about complaining about nothing is just such a leitmotif for our times, or at least they were before Covid.
That segues into ‘The Knife,’ with its driving rhythm section and fuzzy guitars. Drallos writes earworms, that much is clear, and here her vocals feel like they’re coming through the speakers and she’s on a hollow phone call to the studio. They’re layered in parts, but this gives them a disembodied feeling, and the rest of the song sounds so flat emotionally as she sings about the drama that is teenaged love.
‘Velcro Dog’ was the first single from the album, and it’s easy to see why, as she sings about the feeling of being too deep inside her head, feeling empty and alone with her high school friends, so sick and bored with the world. Her voice is present on this track, the flat affect is gone. Once again a driving rhythm section gives us a straight ahead song.
I am very partial to ‘The Morning’, built up around a whirling bassline, stuttering drums, and her voice echoing across the track. And then there’s current single, ‘Sixteen,’ which is perhaps where The Jesus & Marychain are most clear, something echoed in the homage to them in the video.
Taken as a whole, I think that one of the things I love most about this album is that Drallos creates these great songscapes that both recall those touchstone albums and sort of are driven by a 90s nostalgic tip, but they’re more than that. She’s too imaginative a songwriter to simply fall into boring, tired tropes and rhythms. In this she is also helped by the drumming of frequent collaborator, Nick Russo, who brings this post-punk/Goth vibe to his playing (think Joy Division, The Cure), which works against the neo-90s feel. This pastiche of two very different musical eras, plus the sonic updates added by Drallos, create a sound that both is nostalgic, and backwards looking in terms of her lyrical content, but also fully modernized.
As for her lyrics, she is crafty with those, re-creating the drama and nothingness of high school, the ways in which those formative experiences both fuck us right up and bore us at the same time, how they are so full of drama and melodrama that almost immediately begins to recede as we move past it and into our 20s.
Zilched not just shows a lot of promise here, she also has her own voice, and one I am excited to hear more from in the future.