Video games, comic books, films, series, fiction: who doesn’t like them?
We live in alternative worlds, we support characters who become our heroes and, above all, we dream. Because dreaming commands life, and reaching that level is the purpose of our existence.
Prepare your hearts, because there is a new star on stage. From the city of Liverpool, where the sounds of the mythical The Beatles, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gerry & The Pacemakers or the more recent The Wombats echo through the streets, we now meet ZUZU. Take a look at her and her first studio album.
She’s a gamer, a sci-fi and a comic book addict. She has spent the last few years preparing this bombastic debut and has gradually integrated the industry in an original way. She wrote some songs for the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time: Distant Lands and even pulled on her creative vein to recreate “How It Feels”, one of the songs from her 2020 EP of the same name, into Simlish, the official language of the characters in the video game The Sims.
We went back in time – and played a bit on The Sims 1: the video game that brought a whole generation into the gamer world, where we felt like the true gods of all those characters that kept appearing in the neighbourhood we created. In between, we used the best-known cheat codes on the market: remember “motherlode”? It allowed players to receive a significant amount of coins that could be spent in the game.
We pressed the “New Game” button and gave our family a name: it had to be the same as that of ZUZU. The two neighbourhoods are separated by a tunnel, very similar to the one on the River Mersey in Liverpool that connects Liverpool to Birkenhead.
Let’s call it the Queensway Tunnel. And the crossing between the ends will take an estimated time of thirty-five minutes.
We start the journey with “Timing”. And it’s with it that we have the perfect bubblegum pop that motivates us to live, with some incredible guitars that promise to leave the listener in listening. It tells us about that moment when you have a perfect connection with another person, but that the timing is never right for the two lines to come together into just one. Who hasn’t ever been lying in their bed, and their mind is taken over by that special person? The feel, smell, that inescapable feature. I wonder if they are thinking of us too. I wonder what they are doing? And it is in this theme that we savour all these features of life.
In a more Taylor Swift meets Chvrches version, we come to “Lie to Myself”. The electronic version fits Zuzu like a glove, and this song is one of those that are destined for the big stages – and to which we connect immediately. It portrays that moment when something that happens triggers an immediate reaction in your body that you can’t control. Whether it’s shivers of happiness or that punch in the gut where you feel like punching the one next to you, the whole groove is there to leave you…in awe.
We move on to “My Old Life” and “The Van Is Evil”. While the first one is more of introspection and this can be seen in the whole rhythm that accompanies the three and a half minutes of the song (more melancholic, of closure about something in your life that didn’t go wrong in that instant), the second one adapts to the world, in a general context, and its frustration of being a human being on this planet. The fact that we destroy it, recurrently, with small actions in our lives. In Zuzu’s case, it’s all about driving her Van around the UK, from top to bottom. In contrast, the song is more of a hit, with very sensual and seductive rhythms, which motivate us the most to want to dance at the highest tempo. Halfway through the song, we are drawn in by sensual trumpets, which magnetise us until the last chord.
By “Toaster” and “Bevy Head” we feel something close to a dream – more in the air, with a fresh and pure beat from the heart. More than tracks on the album, they sound like poems declaimed by the Liverpool artist.
“Where’d You Go?” is raw and harsh, but it touches on an essential and very interesting point: it sounds like English music, the kind we want to hear from such alternative artists/bands that can range from the Arctic Monkeys to Ed Sheeran. It’s all there, from the extraordinary vocal presence to the instruments that are popped into the music at the right moment.
“Never Again” and “Endlessly Yours” could, perfectly, be incorporated, into renowned films like 007. They are calm, but tempestuous at the same time. They are sweet, but sometimes salty, to the point where we don’t quite know what the artist is getting at. And we listen to them once, twice, three times – and the interpretations multiply.
To close, “Queensway Tunnel” – and there’s no better way to end the album. It’s the best song on the album, and it incorporates all the important points that were conveyed in the other nine songs. Whether it’s a closure, a fresh start, a newness, sadness or the greatest happiness in the world, Zuzu brings that valence in her music. If one is to dream, let one dream to the moon.
And it is with this belief that we shot a love arrow to Liverpool. It was answered, and we exchanged a few words with the artist:
[WtMM] “Queensway Tunnel” is your debut album. How would you describe this adventure?
[Zuzu] A long and winding road through the Queensway Tunnel! This record is very rooted in Merseyside and the people in my life. Every song is based on something I’ve had to learn to navigate, during those times I always turn to my loved ones for advice. The things they say to me and the way they phrase those things have been my biggest inspiration for this album. I couldn’t have done it without that guidance and support but it went beyond the words in those moments and seeped into my record.
How did video games and comic books influence your music?
In a few ways really! My love for comics, cartoons and sci-fi have inspired a lot of the escapism threads in my lyrics. That’s what I get out of reading comics and playing games, I get to escape for a bit and that’s what I try to do in my music too. There’s definitely some sonic moments too, theremin and old synths etc that are inspired by my love of old school sci-fi. The more lo-fi elements have always been inspired by my love of cartoons and gaming.
What are your favourite series (video games, films, comics)?
Adventure Time! I’ve ALWAYS loved adventure time. I slept in adventure time bed sheets and had a subscription to the comics for years, I’ve got a tattoo on my arm! The Sims is my favourite game EVER! Always played it for as long as I can remember and I still do now!
If you could collaborate with any artist right now, who would it be?
Not me saying Taylor Swift again, I’m trying to will it into existence haha.
In one word, how would you describe Zuzu?
We would like to thank Zuzu, Jay Taylor and Prescription PR for making these beautiful words possible.
From top, to bottom, left to right, from electronic to Country or even rock, Zuzu is just that: a millennial hurricane that everything she tries, works. And “Queensway Tunnel” is just that: an irreverent record that should be heard by everyone. A WtMM recommendation.