Up until a couple of years ago Chip Z’Nuff formed one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest and yet most underrated songwriting partnerships. With Donnie Vie, Chip made Enuff Z’Nuff the greatest hard rock band many had never heard of – consistently churning out sugar-sweet melodies and Beatles-tinged rock tunes.
Thankfully, in spite of Vie fleeing the nest, Enuff Z’Nuff still exists, but with Strange Time we see Chip taking a departure from that recognisable flurry of glam-laced pomp.
Strange Time is basically an updated version of Chip Z’Nuff’s 2010 The Death Of Harry Potter opus, which was released under the moniker of Johnnie Rotten Jr. All ten tracks from the original album have been remixed and are repackaged here with a bonus five-track EP collaboration with former Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler.
By incorporating a heavy psychedelic edge in the guitar, Strange Time is a time machine into late 60s kaleidoscopic swirls and stoned grooves, hinting if anything at the slower, more pensive trips of Enuff Z’Nuff circa the mind-melting haze of ‘Stoned’ from the stunning Tweaked album (1995). This is extremely apparent on the slow-moving Technicolor maw of ‘Rockstar’ which although threaded with a killer fizzing lead is very much of that late Beatles drugged up experimentation; catchy through and through, the song also featuring Geezer Butler’s (Black Sabbath) son Biff on backing vocals.
Of course, Chip Z’Nuff doesn’t have the deft quality of Donnie Vie; his voice is an understated instrument, however, which prefers to lace each track rather than dominate. Album opener ‘Sunshine’ is a delicate acoustic strum initially – almost dream-like in its candyflossed tip-toe attitude – which is interrupted by a marching beat, although the melody is a straight lift from The Beatles majestic ‘A Day In The Life’. In fact, The Beatles obsession is pretty intoxicating – Chip has a tepid tone, in a sense, but his vocal ability is better suited to this fluffy 60s vibe rather than anything too metallic.
And so the theme here is very much a trippy Beatles obsession, but Chip seems more than aware of that, stating very matter-of-factly that Strange Time “is a stoner rock record”. That psychedelic buzz continues with the zoned out hum of the title track (co-written with Nine Inch Nails mainman Trent Reznor), which is a hypnotic traipse better suited as an outtake from The Beatles 1966 Revolver album in its bubbling repetition. The track is a tad overlong in my opinion, and so is ‘Dragonfly’, which embarks out initially as a stark drum plod before gradually building into a smoky, almost bluesy nod. For a tune that clocks in at over six-minutes I did expect more variety, but for those who’ve taken a heavy toke beforehand it’s most likely an ideal soundtrack to their fuzzed out expression.
‘F..Mary..Kill’ (written by Chip, Howard Stern and Steve Miller) is another simple yet effective tune of darker moods built around Steve Miller’s ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ with occasional heavier injections of funk, while ‘Still Love Your Face’ has a Beatles-meets-Cheap Trick infectious pop pout, although its main melodious chorus is very much taken from ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’. ‘Anna Nichole’ is a dark, brooding brief instrumental which acts more like a stormy soundtrack, and ‘Strike Three’ maintains that moodier glare; again hinting at a Beatles stomp.
The album finishes with the trippy bop of ‘Hello To The Drugs’ and a rather pointless, although riotous cover of The Kinks’ ‘All Day And All of the Night’, featuring Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Steven Adler.
The five-track bonus EP kicks off with the buzzing groove of ‘My Town’; an upbeat summery rocker with proggy overtones and bubble-gum pop nuances. Next up is ‘Yesterday (Another Wasted Day)’, another track heavily influenced by ELO but also incorporating elements of joyous pop-punk, which is followed by the boogie pop-rock of ‘The Game’. However, of the five bonus tracks the most striking is ‘The Pain Is All On You’, which gives co-writing credits to Chip, Steven Adler and Paul McCartney! I’m not sure if this is tongue in cheek or not but it’s a nice floating piano-led jaunt, although less punchy than ‘Tonight We Meet (And Now We’re Going To Fuck)’, which features guest contributions from ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and Missing Persons vocalist Dale Bozzio.
Overall, with the bonus material, Strange Time is a worthwhile package consisting of rather predictable fair in regards to its influences, but anyone who is so blatant in paying homage to their heroes and in such a joyous manner deserves kudos. Although Chip Z’Nuff is not the world’s greatest vocalist, the music presented here works well in tandem with those stoned drools. Awash with psychedelia, Strange Time is very much a labour of love from a songwriter insistent on creating tunes to float down stream to.
Strange Time tracklisting:
~ all songs written by Chip Z’Nuff except where noted ~
3. Strange Time
5. Still Love Your Face
7. Anna Nichole
8. Strike Three
9. Hello To The Drugs
10. All Day and All Of The Night feat. Robin Zander & Steven Adler
BONUS EP: STEVEN ADLER & CHIP Z’NUFF
11. My Town
12. Yesterday (Another Wasted Day)
13. The Game
14. Tonight We Met (And Now We’re Going To F***) feat. Slash & Dale Bozzio
15. The Pain Is All On You
[gigpress_shows scope=upcoming artist=39]