Red zebra - The Beauties Of The Beast: The Best Of Red Zebra (1980-1983) – Starman Records

  Van Muylem    1 februari 2016

A lot of people only know Red Zebra from one song, the first one on this compilation, but they have so much more on their CV! They started in 1978 under the name The Bungalows, changed their name and reached the final of the legendary Humo’s Rock Rally (a lot of big bands and great artists reached the final over the years, making this Rally The contest for talent spotters!).

This compilation stops at 1983, but also after that and until very recently a lot of great albums and great tracks merged: Mimicry and Don’t Put Your Head in A Bucket to name just 2 of them … The previous Best of are sold out, but if you run into The Art of Conservation: run for at as this one is more up-to-date …  But, yes: they have a habit of selling out everything, so good luck with that!

I Can’t Live In A Living Room by Red Zebra is one of those tracks that will always figure on a compilation or top 100 over the years; however it was originally only a B-side! It’s what you can call an evergreen! This song is simply indestructible! Listen to the guitar sound of Geert Maertens and the irresistible lyrics! This is New Wave with a Punk attitude! Innocent People (actually the A-side of their biggest hit) has a great bass and hammering drums, whilst Peter Slabbynck sings in his own English (with his typical accent). I remember this track from a lot of gigs I attended to over the years. Graveyard Shuffle has this typical 80’s sound, the sound you hear even in 2016 when bands want to pick up the 80’s sound: the bass, the guitar and drums: it’s so 80’s and irresistible! No vocals on it, but that doesn’t bother me. Crimes of Passion is for sure a hard to get track as it only figured on the compilation Humo's Rock Rally Finale. I hear some Buzzcocks and some The Cure in it (remember Plastic Passion). Peter’s way of singing is a bit different in this one (softer). Another track that I still recall from the live sets is I’m Falling Apart: drums and omnipresent bass drive this song to a higher level. Sound wise it comes close to the other legendary band from Belgium: Siglo XX. More catchiness comes with TV Activity with an angrier singer, same great bass/guitar and very sharp drums. The lyrics are sadly still part of our reality in 2016. As live song this one can count as a great track, don’t stand still or one must have bewitched you into a statue! Bastogne is yet another legendary track (without vocals); it’s also the title track from their 1981 album (and a rare collector item). Darker vibes comes with Shadows of Doubt. The sound is pretty hypnotic (bass and guitar). If you are depressed and sad don’t listen to it, as it’s too dark and might give you more bad feelings. It’s a very strong track, with this constant heating up the angry feeling and darkening the darkness! I heard very recently a more electronic approach for this dark one and Peter was referring to our own actual situation in Belgium, once again proving that the lyrics are almost timeless (after more than 30 years). I can almost sing-a-long and it’s hard to stand still. It’s a timeless track, a perfectly crafted diamond! Another very much into 2016 is the visionary Art of Conversation! Indeed: listen to the lyrics and check if we have lost the art of conversation … Aren’t we all looking all the time at our tablets, i-pads, mobile phones even whilst having dinner? Writing this song already in the early 80’s is simply prophetic! On stage this one always rocked and I will always remember it this way! Great Guitar and great performance! The Italian voices in it are also a great thing. Darwin comes with Man Comes From Ape, another great track that survived over the years and still got played on stage (whilst eating a banana), but listen to the lyrics and tell me again if they are not actual? I love the riff and the drums whilst Peter’s performance reached a high. The sound is typical for the 80’s, but yet I can hear it coming back in 2016! Lust hasn’t lost much of its energy and is still a great track that can be played as loud as possible. It has a disco and reggae feel, making it hard not to start dancing. The guitar sound is just perfect. This one also figured on Maquis (just as the next 5 tracks). The Beauty of The Beast could have been a big hit, listen to the warm sound, the trumpets, the guitars … I recently heard a more electronic version of this one too and I feel like: why not record these reboot versions? Blutengel recently did it with their best of, well sad thing is that Red Zebra split and was close to fighting in out in court, so it will always be a dream … Polar Club is another evergreen: the guitars, the bass, drums and Peter doing his crazy act on stage … I will never forget it! Sing-a-long with the chorus, jump up and do some crowd surfing … Enjoy yourself, have fun! The sound is very hypnotic; you tend to push the repeat function! A magical but very sad and cynical ballad is Beirut by Night. Do you think the lyrics are outdated? I still see destroyed cities in the Middle East, people are still in war, buildings are still skeletons and no tourist guide is active in the region. The fireworks are no pleasure things in the Middle East … Don’t you get depressed, after more than 30 years? Time to move along with the action track Mice and Man. Still a very actual track, sadly. The high tempo gives you pleasure, just as the guitars and the singing. One of the most underrated tracks on the whole album is my most favorite track Paradise Lost (actually with Ann Tuts on backings, yup the one from The Kampioenen, if you want to see a funny TV-series, go for this one). The bass, the guitar and the vocals: it’s all very dark and very depressing and yet just so good and perfect! The hypnotic sound will grab you; you’ll start to sing-a-long and dance! The guitar sound has been reproduced a 1.000 times, just proving how great the sound is on this one. Towards the end the vocals gives it a cynical twist (and the best outro). Search Party has not been played much on stage and makes it a bit strange (as it was also a single). With this one we close the regular set and get the live cover from Joy Division Transmission (they played it a lot on stage). The live feedback says enough about the quality of their version! It was also one of my favorite live covers; next to the one(s) from The Sound (I really miss it here). Anyway: feel the live energy and shed a tear as this sound will never return (I fear they will never get back to their original form). Maybe it’s time to bang on some door and ask for a huge reconciliation? Just like the people are shouting towards the end: we want more!

Another extra is the Kolk version of I can’t live in a Livingroom 5 remember that for 25 years a lot of artists launched their own version of it and I must say that this reggae/drum’n bass version is by far the most special version. Towards the end we get a big boom with a great ecclectical end! Great to know is that Gerry Vergult (Aroma Di Amore) is part of this trio.

It’s hard to believe that they produced so much great songs in only 3 years’ time as I feel they are all hits! No fillers, only killers! RIP Red Zebra, long live EX-RZ! Yup Peter Slabbynck creates a more electronic sound together with his friend Frits Standaert and Agent Orange!