• Zumpano
  • Look What the Rookie Did (Scratch/Sub Pop) 1995 
  • Goin' Through Changes (Sub Pop) 1996 

More important than its simply effective re-creation of breezy ’60s guitar-pop harmony atmospheres, this young Vancouver quartet (named after drummer Jason Zumpano; singer Carl Newman is also in Superconductor) subtly taps into the imaginary frivolity of that bygone era on its debut with such songs of incidental teen angst as “Oh That Atkinson Girl,” “The Party Rages On” and “Wraparound Shades.” With production by Kevin Kane of Grapes of Wrath on Look What the Rookie Did, Zumpano is able to fight off the potential for coyness in its polka dot endeavors and ambitious enough to raise the ante with dramatic horns and pedal steel, treating period evocation as an intermediate goal rather than the stylistic finish line. Between the non-linear lyrics, blasts of freak-out rock excitement (especially the two minutes of bonus feedback and meltdown noise that follows the last listed track) and a sense that more is going on here than meets the ears, it’s clear that Zumpano are not mere stylistic burrowers. An apt Jimmy Webb cover (“Rosecrans Boulevard” fits in here like an original) and the loaded-gun ethnicity of “(She’s a) Full-blooded Sicilian” (complete with strummed banjo) defines an intriguing band with more on its mind than “Snowflakes & Heartaches.”

Goin’ Through Changes goes further down the same time tunnel, but with more ambition, confidence and intuitive skill. Another absolute delight.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: New Pornographers, Superconductor