Lenny Zenith and Pop Combo – Wavelength

Armed with his songs and a new band that COOKS, Lenny is ready to take on the pop charts.

Lenny Zenith first gained a small measure of notoriety as a singer/songwriter in a local band called RZA. Projecting a naive but confident sincerity, he’d bound up onto a PA. speaker and bang out barre chords in an image of consummate androgyny, all the while singing his little poseur’s heart out. RZA, in its various incarnations, was always one of those bands that seemed to bore as many people as it excited; the message-oriented material delivered in such a predictable format often seemed just a little too pretentious and contrived.

It’s been a couple of years since the heyday of RZA, a few solo gigs and a lot of songs later, but Lenny Zenith is back with a new group called Pop Combo, a band that can jam pack a bar with sweaty teenagers faster than you can say Jordache or Duran Duran, and in terms of musical intelligence, chops, and simple dynamics, Pop Combo is a far more interesting band than RZA ever was.

There’s more energy here, more humor: to close out their first set, Pop Combo will take the Latino bop of “La Bamba.” speed it up and beef it up with jungle tom-toms, then slip in a verse of “Twist and Shout” just to keep the party going at full throttle. Everybody dances because they obviously find it such fun, including the band.

Drummer Steven Fisher and bassist Gary Parky form quite a funky rhythm section, considering they’re white boys playing pop music. Given the right material (like “La Bamba/Twist and Shout”) they can smoke. Fisher, almost unbelievably, has never played in a band before, and Parky is a recent graduate of Berklee School of Music. Lead guitarist Bruce Blaylock’s roots are firmly in R&B, and the former Nightrider has excellent phrasing and tonal command (his black Strat is equipped with a StratBlaster signal booster, front humbucking pickup, and runs through an awesomely powerful Boogie tube amp). Zenith’s rhythm guitar is the weakest link in the musical chain his tenor being one of the strongest), but then, suburban troubadours have never needed to be virtuosos anyway. In the interim between bands, Lenny played several acoustic solo gigs, troubadour style, singing mostly serious songs about life and love and society and conformity and rebellion. These types of Songs form much of the Pop Combo repertoire. Unfortunately, none of them are as silly as “La Bamba/Twist and Shout.”

As a writer, Mr. Z. often steers perilously close to becoming an Elvis Costello clone, using many of the latter’s structural devices (“pure pop”-era chord changes, double puns, etc.) but often without the stinging acidity of Costello’s cynicism. One thing Lenny has never been short on is confidence: “I think my songs are really good, competitive with some of the better songwriters today. I could sit down and play a song for anybody and virtually dare them to tell me it’s not a good song. I have that much confidence in the music These songs have found their way to the soon-to-be-released Pop Combo EP, a record that will serve as their calling card in the upcoming move to the West Coast, “I think it’s really important for our band to get out of New Orleans.” Lenny insists. “It’s the best move we could make right now and I think we’d be very competitive on the Los Angeles scene. The A&R people are out there, they’ll come in, check us out and say They were right, these guys really are good!” And of local predecessors like the Red Rockers who have landed this kind of deal? “They deserve it, they had the balls to get out there and do it!” 

Pop Combo: Bruce Blaylock, Gary Parky, Steven Fisher along with Lenny Zenith

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