BLK JKS, Zol! (Secretly Canadian, 2010)

BLK JKS (pronounced black jacks) are a South African quartet featuring guitarists Lindani Buthelezi and Mpumi Mcata, bassist Molefi Makananise, and drummer Tshepang Ramoba. Their eclectic sound combines edgy alternative rock with the musical styles of their homeland. Their newest release Zol! Is a five-song EP. While I wouldn't go nearly as far as the reviewer at Spin magazine who proclaimed "Let the mythologizing begin," the album does suggest that the band has some good musical ideas that can be developed further.

The band manage to cover a broad range of languages and styles over twenty-five minutes. The first song "Iietys" is straightforward rock, while the second song "Bogobe" is a bit jazzy. The third song and title track is pure township jive, mixing English and Zulu. "Paradise" is guitar heavy, with the band sounding like a jazzier version of Living Colour. These first four songs are OK, but the band save the best for last with "Mzabalazo." This song mixes a frenetic rhythm with the kind of Zulu chorus that will have non-natives trying to sing along.

Zol! is not a super recording, but it is a fun one. Rock fans who like South African music will certainly find it worth their while. BLK JKS are an interesting group with an inventive and diverse sound, and I think there's a good chance they can improve on this in the near future.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

"Mzabalazo," at the World Cup opening ceremonies

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