“I hope this is one you’re reviewing and you didn’t actually buy it,” said my fiancée less than thirty seconds into this album. Why? I won’t spoil it so early on, but if ever a band’s sound suited their name, the sleazy, leering proto-punk of Bay-area throwbacks Lecherous Gaze would fit the bill. These lechers have been around since 2010, but it wasn’t until they enlisted the “vocals” of Zaryan Zaidi in 2012 that they really became cringeworthy. One Fifteen is the band’s third album, and it promises to be an slice of snappy, high-energy rock in the vein of bands like the New York Dolls and MC5, and along the lines of the newer retro garage bands like Valient Thorr. Promises are often made to be broken, though…
The title track kicks things off with a surf-punk style and a diddling riff. It’s not the best song on the album, but it does have some good lead licks courtesy of Graham Clise and a very genuine feel to it all. Musically, one can hear the talent. The band is tight, with bass player Chris Grande and drummer Noel Sullivan laying down a solid, up-tempo foundation throughout. They’re a busy pair but their style fits the music. “Reptile Minds” opens with a super-cool 70s riff and the song rolls along with enthusiasm, as do most of the cuts. Musically Lecherous Gaze are like a guilty pleasure, bordering on cheesy in their earnest take on the rock of yore.
With song titles like “Cosmos Redshift 7,” “The Day the Earth Caught Fire,” “X City,” and the uber-cool Frank Frazetta cover art, I expected the lyrics to follow a sci-fi theme. I think they do, but I can’t really tell, and it’s the biggest problem with the album, a problem that will make it or break it for many people. Singer (and I use the term loosely) Zaryan Zaidi has such a hoarse, cackling, grating sneer that his voice makes Lemmy sound like Pavarotti. Sadly, I fall in the “break it” camp, and Zaidi’s voice makes me want to force my head through a brick wall while a group of schoolchildren drag their fingernails down chalkboards.
This is a sad thing because I love me some olde rock. I’ve got plenty of MC5, The Stooges, and New York Dolls albums buried in my collection, and they do get dusted off every now and again. “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” has such a great riff it could be pulled from any of these albums, and I know for a fact if David Johansen or Iggy Pop were singing, it would slay. “Thing Within” and “Blind Swordsman” are such fun songs that are completely ruined by Zaidi, who sounds like he’s been smoking, drinking, and throwing up for about 45 years, that it actually makes me wonder if I’m the one who’s out to lunch – and how bad at singing the rest of Lecherous Gaze must be.
A producer I had the pleasure of working with and learning from once said the three key ingredients to a great song are the song, the song, and the song. I don’t know if he made it up himself, but he had clearly never heard a singer like this before. I don’t think even the greatest songs would be enough to save Zaidi from himself, and while the cuts on One Fifteen are good, with a lot of style, good feel, great energy, and some top-notch licks, they just can’t overcome the vocals. Musically, this is a 3.5 for me, but vocally a 1, hence the rating you see below. Decide for yourself if the vocals make or break it. If you can handle it, Lecherous Gaze might be the band for you.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Tee Pee Records
Websites: lecherousgaze.bandcamp.com | lecherousgaze.blogspot.ca | facebook.com/lecherousgaze
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2017