Review Summary: One of the more complete punk rock albums you’ve never heard…
Zero Down was a punk rock trio based out of California led by vocalist and bassist Jim Cherry, formerly with Strung Out (bass) and Pulley (song writer/guitar), guitarist John Mcree formerly with War Called Peace, and drummer Milo Todesco formerly with Down By Law. They performed a very 90’s-esque skate punk throwback, comparable to their former bands’ work. They were signed with one of the more established indie punk labels Fat Wreck Chords.
Zero Down has accomplished so much in the minds of their fans in just a short period of time and could have done so much more had it not been for the calamity that would cease their existence. Zero Down was short-lived, lasting from 2000 to July 2002 at the moment of Jim Cherry’s death. It was discovered during the autopsy his body was clean at the time of his death and it was not a drug overdose that took Cherry’s life as previously stated, but a life-long heart condition stemmed from hypertension and arrhythmia. Regrettably, With a Lifetime to Pay (2001) would be their only release.
There are plenty of qualities found in Zero Down’s composition. One of the more evident traits can be found in their opening track on the album “The Way It Is”, with its catchy guitar hooks and upbeat pace. It is surely one of the more poppy tracks on With a Lifetime to Pay along with “It Ain’t Over Yet”, “Suck Seed” and “The Best”. Another attribute that I think not many other punk bands carry, is the outright emotion driven from Cherry’s lyrics into the music, which can be seen in the very next track “No Apologies”, while still maintaining the upbeat style as previously mentioned.
“Weak of mind and born to follow,
do not question the beliefs you swallow.
Eternal life for your belief in man,
welcome to the empty promised land.”
“Empty Promised Land” (lyrics above) starts showing off a little bit of their heavy & dark side to their music. This track isn’t as buoyant as most of Without a Lifetime to Pay, but it strives in delivering a message. This is where Cherry’s emotional vocals truly shine.
“Everybody’s Whore” (lyrics below), “Temptation” & “Self Medication” are more examples of songs that are in the vein of “Empty Promised Land” that not only the music entertains you, but the lyrics themselves will pull you in and that’s where the band purely excels the most. Also worth mentioning, are McCree’s brilliantly played solos spread throughout the album; something that has been missing from punk rock all too often.
“Don't try to stop me now because it's far too late
I gotta figure it out on my own.
The walls are closing in
the foundation shakes as the vultures wait to pick me to the bone.”
It’s distressing listening to With a Lifetime to Pay. I can’t tell if it’s because of the fact that Jim Cherry has passed and can be relived only through this album, or if it’s just that fact that the album has a very depressing feel to it. What I can tell you, is that it is a bitter sweet sentiment and I believe that more people need to experience what Zero Down has to offer.
The Way It Is
Empty Promised Land
A Million More
R.I.P.: Jim Cherry 1971-2002