Originally interested in making satirical hip hop, New Jersey’s EdTang got his moniker combing his own name with one of his favorite groups: the one and only Wu Tang Clan. It didn’t take long, however, for the Asbury Park-er to drop his hip hop aspirations and take on a completely different musical direction – in this case, folk punk.
The folk punk genre doesn’t get a lot of love, and even more unfortunate is that the lack of love is pretty understandable. In the realm of folk punk, bands are usually either brilliant or horrendous – there isn’t much in between. Luckily for us, EdTang & the Chops are on the ‘brilliant’ side of the spectrum, with their latest album, Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner, serving as the perfect example of the potential that well-made aggro folk can have.
The record is a testament to days of yore, times when the freedom of youth defined every moment in our lives. The band has described the album as being an “introspective look into the line that separates the dates of a headstone,” and no other description could be better. Notions of loss, regret, yearning, and adolescence make up the album’s lyrics, but the wistful, Americana melodies make the album more nostalgic than depressing.
Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner kicks off with the crackle of a record and kicks straight into the anthemic “Vaya,” a story lamenting the fleeting moments that make up an entire life. Though the song has a bit of a country twang, “Vaya” sounds more like the lovechild between Rancid and Billy Bragg. This lovechild vibe works well for the band, and they ultimately make it their own – the twang comes back for the upbeat “Lincoln,” but takes a seat for songs like “Bill, I Believe This is Killing Me” and “Beware of a Dog,” the latter being the most rocked out song on the album.
Throughout the record, EdTang frequently shares vocal duties with singers Andrea Scanniello and Julianne Suozzo, and the women’s soothing voices make for a beautifully striking contrast against EdTang’s gruff, been-there-done-that voice. The somber feel of “Crow Till We Croak” is emphasized with the dual vocals, and “Pualei” ends up sounding like a lullaby, thanks to Scanniello’s ethereal voice.
This is an album that has clearly been made with care, from the perfect no-more-than-necessary production and the reflective, contemplative lyrics. Even people who don’t usually listen to country, folk, or Americana will find enjoy the record because there’s always a punk edge to each song. Whether it’s the carefree recollecting about the follies of youth in “Recharged,” or the Oasis-worthy pub anthem feel of “My Whole Life,” Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner is the perfect soundtrack to reminiscence, a collection of nine songs that capture the feeling of finally turning your back to the past and getting ready for what’s to come.