It’s easy to see where ZuZu’s Petals stand on the whole femininity-versus-feminism debate. They’re carefully styled and attended by unabashedly girly accouterments (in the CD booklet of one record, they’re sitting around sipping tea; the sleeve of another gathers three pocketbooks around an old tube radio). But the Minneapolis trio never slips into cutesy character when its time to get down to business. Sure, they’re a little poppier than most of their Twin Cities counterparts, but that’s more a function of nurture (they’ve clearly spent a fair share of time in the coffeehouse) than nature.
On the trio’s full-length debut (produced by Lou Giordano), guitarist Laurie Lindeen’s songwriting contributions tend to be quite a bit lighter than bassist Coleen Elwood’s; emphasizing the folky trills inherent in her sing-song delivery fits Lindeen’s diary-like musings nicely. While there’s not much in songs like “Cinderella’s Daydream” and the woe-is-the-world “God Cries” that you haven’t heard before, Lindeen’s ardor is difficult to resist. Elwood has more of a rocker’s bias — albeit not as overwrought as that of homegirls Babes in Toyland — which manifests itself on the blunt eccentric’s rallying cry “Psycho Tavern.”
Both women loosen up significantly on The Music of Your Life, a less-polished recording (by Albhy Galuten) that consequently shows a lot more life: the tremolo-infused “Chatty Cathy” (written by the entire trio) tears into its trashy title target with merciless glee, while Lindeen’s “Do Not” musters a mysterioso pulse that tickles the pleasure center in a manner that probably would not get the Jimmy Stewart seal of approval.