The Zincs' Black Pompadour is what might have happened had Morissey moved to Chicago, stolen Tortoise producer John McEntire, and asked Edith Frost to sing harmonies. Not that band leader James Elkington's voice sounds much at all like Morissey's, the comparison has more to do with the careful melancholy timelessness of the song-crafting than vocal qualities.
Elkington formed The Zincs after leaving England for the Midwest back in 2000. In Chicago he found a burgeoning music scene, which he immediately became a part of. He released a solo-driven album in 2002, and then, in 2005, the full band sounds first formed on Dimmer. The band coupled with McEntire for Black Pompadour, to expand the layers of instrumentation.
For this album, all instruments were played by the band: Elkington singing and on guitar, Nathaniel Braddock on guitar and keyboards, Nick Marci on bass and saxophone octet, and Jason Toth on drums.
"Head East, Kaspar" starts the album off as a sort of playful on the road sound, a tune to listen to on the highway during sunset. The upbeat song, complete with sha-la-las, leads into "Coward's Corral," which quickens the tempo into a fast-paced rockabilly tinged ditty.
Through the entire album Elkington sings in a deadpan sex-addled baritone that oozes a cool nonchalance. Edith Frost, whose sparse urban folk albums have seen success on the Chicago-based Drag City label, sings harmonies on several cuts, including "Rice Scars," the first slow track of the album, and "Lost Solid Colors," an Ida-esque ballad laced with atmospheric keyboards and shimmery guitar.
Black Pompadour is engaging because the songs are deceivingly simple and impeccably executed. The surface is slick, but repeat listens expose layer after layer of disparate sounds--1960s organ drones, chamber pop twinkles, folksy twang--perfectly hewn. • Katy Henriksen