Reviews Zone

Brand New Zeros: Back To Zero (Fretsore Records) 9th July 2021



5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



A real, raw, shit hot, ballsy rock and roll record with no BS backstory or an array of star guests to prop up weak songs and performances.

This really is the dog’s dooh dahs – 38 minutes of noisy delight to restore my faith in bands with real instruments, real singers, great material and not an auto-tune or sample to be heard!

Brand New Zeros is singer-songwriter Ronan MacManus and lead guitarist Luke Dolan. Cutting their teeth at rehearsals in Dolan’s barbershop in Waterford, Ireland, the pairing of Ronan and Luke quickly struck-up a potent creative relationship and began writing music together.

Realising their potential, events escalated rapidly from there and before too long Brand New Zeros had grown into a fully-fledged band project with label signings and tour opportunities soon landing at their feet.

Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2015, the Zeros also landed a breakthrough tour with Ronan’s big brother Declan MacManus, better known as Elvis Costello.

Signing to Fretsore Records in 2019, after a succession of warmly received singles, the band finally release that so-called “difficult second album”. 11 tracks of original material where influences range from classic rock, grunge, folk, new-wave, Americana and more.

MacManus has a very versatile vocal style, and you can sometimes hear that aggressive Costello rasp. His mucker, Luke Dolan is an inventive guitarist with a big palette, and put me in mind of Johnny Marr, Patti Smith’s guitarist Lenny Kaye, Tom Petty’s guitarist Mike Campbell and maybe even Mick Green, Johnny Thunders and Earl Slick. Really cool licks here….

I loved his playing on my favourite cut here, “This Love”, and Ronan’s cracking vocal reminded me of Idles’ frontman, Joe Talbot. Meant as a big compliment as I love that band. The track conjures up early The Who and U2 meets Idles, for me. On this track, late drummer Carlton Hunt, one of his final recordings.

Among the set is a hard-hitting song about the staggering wealth divide, “Money Goes To Money”. Reference to the escalation in mass-shootings in schools, with  “Angels With Guns”.

They focus on facing your demons in the face of temptation with “Cigarette”, and the substance of ‘human kindness’ on the song of the same name. An emotive piano-ballad, “Human Kindness” found a whole new audience during the pandemic when it was featured on “Artists4NHS.”

A fundraising initiative founded by MacManus, “Artists4NHS” was launched with the assistance of Elvis Costello, who performed at an organised live-stream performance in its honour, alongside global stars such as Joss Stone and Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers. Ronan’s wife is a nurse.

If I close my eyes when this album is on, I really can picture this exciting band up there on any huge arena or stadium stage, giving it large and sounding spectacular.

A very special band, a very special album offering a clutch of special songs. As and when live music returns en masse, I shall be making 100% sure I get to catch these lads in the act PDQ. You can bank on it!


By Andy Faith



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