Zeus’ 2010 debut album, Say Us, split the difference between the Badfinger and Harry Nilsson versions of “Beatlesque,” adopting both power-pop crunch and freewheeling imagination. Now Zeus returns with the decidedly rowdier and loopier Busting Visions, which widens the band’s influence-pool to include Thin Lizzy, Queen, The Faces, The Zombies, and Wings. (Not that Zeus had to widen that much to include the latter.) Like their fellow countrymen in Sloan, the members of Zeus take turns writing the songs, and bring different, sometimes competing sensibilities to bear from track to track. What ultimately unifies Busting Visions, like Say Us before it, is the skill and enthusiasm of the musicians. Throw anything at these guys; they can play it.
But while the performances, production, and arrangements on Busting Visions are uniformly excellent, the songwriting is not. It’s too bad that Zeus didn’t include any of the four songs it released between LPs—especially the fiery “Hot Under The Collar,” which is one of the band’s best—because that would’ve upped the album’s winning percentage considerably. As it stands, Busting Visions is weighed down by too many songs that sound like generic ’70s AM pop-rock (such as “Now That I’ve Got You”) and too many songs like “Love/Pain,” “Love In A Game,” and “Anything You Want Dear,” where all the tight harmonies, clean-burning guitars, and glammy polish are in service of gratingly repetitive hooks.
Still, as with Sloan, what makes Zeus so much fun—and makes the band’s occasional lapses forgivable—is that at any given moment, Busting Visions can turn on a dime and deliver the pitch-perfect Colin Blunstone impression of “With Eyes Closed,” or can segue organically from the gospel-tinged “Hello, Tender Love” to the catchy, piano-driven “Messenger’s Way.” Zeus is eminently capable of delights and surprises. Don’t like one song? Just wait a couple of minutes.