CD Review: The Knack - Zoom

The Knack's Zoom album, a fine return to form, gets remastered with bonus tracks.
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The past few years have been good to fans of The Knack. First came the live album, Havin' a Rave-up: Live in Los Angeles 1978, which showcased via a blistering performance why the band was in such demand before they even had an album out. Next came Rock 'n' Roll Is Good For You: The Fieger/Averre Demos, which gave a look at the songwriting duo's pre Get The Knack demos. Some of these songs eventually found homes on The Knack's six albums, but all of the songs are excellent. Now comes the rerelease of Zoom, a latter-day gem by Doug Fieger and company, newly remastered with five bonus tracks, four of which were previously unreleased.

The story of how the band got to Zoom is an interesting one. As fast as the band burst upon the scene in 1979 with "My Sharona" was about as fast as the public turned on the band for overexposure, overhype or whatever one may want to call it. Two albums later, by 1981's Round Trip, the group was done. The group reformed in the late 1980s and released an album, Serious Fun, that contained a rock radio hit in "Rocket 'O Love" but soon disappeared again, not to be in demand until the film Reality Bites brought back interest in "My Sharona" in a big way. The original band decided to reform and, in 1997, played two well-received gigs at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Interest in the shows and the band led them to the studio to record Zoom, but without original drummer Bruce Gary, who had left for good. Terry Bozzio, formerly of Frank Zappa's band, among others, took over and the group only ended up recording one of their best albums.

Fieger sometimes called Zoom his favorite Knack record and it is no exaggeration to say it is among their very best. While Serious Fun perhaps journeyed too much into the hard rock realm, Zoom is steeped in the power pop that made the band famous in the first place. Opening track, "Pop Is Dead," shows that couldn't be further from the truth with its big vocals, infectious melody and a guitar hook reminiscent of The Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing." "Can I Borrow A Kiss" finds the band mining 1960s power pop to perfection with its jangly guitars and lyrical content that harkens back to the Summer of Love.

Fieger wrote "Ambition" with Stan Lynch, formerly of Tom Petty's band, and the song does have a little bit of a Heartbreakers vibe to it. Think "Runnin' Down A Dream" with more bite vocally. Bassist Prescott Niles brought in "Harder On You," which he originally intended for the film That Thing You Do. While the song didn't make the film, it did make it here and it is one of the standouts of the record, capturing a mid-1960s feel with an updated Knack edge to it. The original album closed with "(All In The) All In All," a psychedelic ballad that recalls "Maybe Tonight" from Get The Knack. It's a killer slice of pop co-written with Oliver Leiber, son of Jerry Leiber.

The CD includes five bonus tracks, including "She Says," a ballad that was previously released on Proof: The Very Best of The Knack. The classic Fieger ballad is given a second chance here. Also included are demos of "Mr. Magazine," "Harder On You," "(All In The) All In All" and a rerecorded version of "My Sharona" featuring Bozzio on drums. The track, while good, is unnecessary and Bozzio, while a great drummer, doesn't really add anything to the song that Gary didn't already do.

The Knack was a band that, post 1980, never really got the accolades it deserved. This rerelease of Zoom will once again showcase the songwriting prowess of Doug Fieger and Berton Averre and perhaps fans will get The Knack once more.