By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
By Chaz Kangas
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Sam Blum
Look up any pic of Z02, and you won't believe your peepers: The Brooklyn power trio, all boasting meaty pecs, resemble a Forever 21 train wreck starring Nuno Bettencourt, that one guy from Wolfmother, and an Italo-cokehead from Syracuse who digs Tiësto and Daughtry. Are these guys fucking with us? Maybe. The boys are, after all, currently filming one of them band-trying-to-make-it-big TV series for the Independent Film Channel: Z Rock, scheduled to premiere this August, is a reality/fictional comedy fusion also starring the delicious Joan Rivers, weed-smuggling survivalist John Popper, and Gilbert Godfrey (no witty qualification needed).
So yeah, those skin-tight tank tops and J. Lo shades could be nothing more than cheap costumes. Then again, over the last four years, ZO2 have done all the things that working hard-rock bands do: release a couple of albums (Tuesdays & Thursdays and Ain't It Beautiful), and tour with Poison and Kiss. (Which might explain the outfits, by the way: They could be gifts from Paul Stanley's personal wardrobe.)
But who really gives a crap about authenticity? This is rock 'n' roll, after all. For a couple decades now, lily-white suburban transplants obsessed with Thurston Moore have dominated this town. But ZO2, real or not, pray to far older New York deities. Joey Cassata and brothers Paulie and David Z hark back to a classic age when second-generation Italian- and Jewish-Americans actually born around here (or at least in Jersey or Long Island) dipped Zeppelin bombast in swarthy virility. We're talking early-'70s behemoths like Cactus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Blue Öyster Cult, and, yes, early KISS.
Even better, ZO2 aren't one of these retro/stoner acts—indie dorks who discovered Physical Graffiti in their late twenties. The trio comes off as a kind of hybrid: dudes following up teenage Zep worship with Aerosmith, the Crüe, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. Then somebody lent them a copy of Wolfmother's debut, which kind of blows, but it taught the band how to ground K-Rock modernity in boogie's primal life-force. These guys are far better than the 'Mother, in fact, because they appear to possess all the sleaze 'n' cheeze central to classic rock. Retro bands don't understand this stuff: Despite some sturdy power-riffage, they're like sexless test-tube clones genetically prevented from equating "guitar" with "cock," and thus all the (absolutely necessary) bad-taste machismo that flows forth from said formula.
Of course, this is all nothing but guesswork. I'm not sure if I would ever want to hang out with these knuckleheads to learn the truth. But none of that matters: At least ZO2 has given New York its groove back. And that's aces.
ZO2 play Arlene's Grocery (arlenesgrocery.net) July 25