Count Zero – Little Minds

Count Zero
Little Minds

We in the greater Boston area tend to scrutinize our music scene and local bands a little closer than most, much like we do our sports teams. But not only does Count Zero pass the sniff test, the band delights the senses with some imaginative, intelligent, and catchy music. Yes, those RIYLs are correct! Little Minds, Count Zero’s third release, contains all of these influences and more that will slowly reveal themselves with repeated, close listens. While this disc has enough pop hooks and crisp arrangements to instantly grab your ear, it will demand you pay closer attention. When you do, the diverse inspirations, initially obscured by the alternative radio-friendly beats, are exposed in clever ways, making each song a unique rock experience. This is prog-rock without being pretentious, indie rock without the whimsy, Brit-pop without the glam, and electronic pop without the sap.

The first three tracks are indicative of the way the members of Count Zero, with their not-so-little minds and superior musicianship, meld their own innovative melodies with the smart pop style of Elvis Costello, hooky choruses of Blur, and tight XTC-like rock arrangements. But it is not until the fourth track, “My Little Mind,” with frontman Peter Moore doing his best Peter Gabriel impression, that the sound transforms into an expansive musical tapestry.

These spirited songs evolve to include artful passages that allow the other band members to show off their worthiness, from Elizabeth Steen’s skill on an assortment of keys to Will Ragano’s crafty guitar work and Brendan Downey’s occasional lap steel to the excellent rhythm section of Izzy Maxwell (bass) and Eric Paul (drums). Songs like “May,” “Marigold,” and “Schizoid Astroplane” borrow from such diverse genres as 70s prog-rock, 80s synth-pop, and 90s Brit-rock, to which Count Zero’s artists add their own shimmering pop and then mold and shape the music in a new and catchy way.

Moore coaxes intensity and emotion from his voice to fit with the mood of the music as he conveys his insightful social commentary and abstract humor. While he has his own style, at times he sounds like Gabriel or Costello, which boasts of his versatility and not a lack of consistency. Will Ragano with his only vocal appearance on “Behold” is a dead ringer for George Demarest (ex-The Solefish), and with its mature prog sound and hooky vocal tags, the song is one of the better tracks.

“Little Minds” was three years in the making, and it seems that was just the right amount of time the band needed to refine its sound. Count Zero’s strategy of extracting various pop and rock elements from the last three decades to create tunes that push and cross many boundaries yet somehow remain fresh has paid off and should garner these folks some national attention, especially on the college-radio scene.