EP Review: The Homeless Gospel Choir – Normal (6/9/17)

The Homeless Gospel Choir‘s newest release dropped today in the form of a two song 7″. If you have not had the pleasure of listening to any of The Homeless Gospel Choir (aka Derek Zanetti)’s music before, this record is a great place to start. You can also check out our recent interview with him. 

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The hometown heroes over at A-F records worked with Zanetti again to release these wonderful songs that he has been playing at shows for years. A-F records has pressed three versions of this record: a special edition red vinyl that is only available through the A-F record club, 350 yellow vinyl, and a beautiful baby blue that was added on when the yellow pre-order sold out. This record runs up to you with open arms, grabs you by the jacket, screams in your face, and gives you a big fucking hug.

 The first track “Normal” is a real barn burner, a total celebration of strangeness. It has a positive message, super catchy chorus, and simply a driving riff, all the qualities that make for a great punk song. Zanetti used a full band to record this track and it has a similar sound to other full band tracks he has previously released. This was an excellent choice on his part because the song has so much energy that could get lost on an acoustic recording. The chords are long, simple, and sustain speeding up for the chorus and breaking for an acoustic part when he sings about picking up a guitar. The track starts off with a recording of a crowd of people screaming the chorus “You’re never gonna be normal,” then quickly jumps into Zanetti’s pool of feelings.

He sings of being 11 years old, feeling strange and insecure. He then goes on to tell how he found an escape in music, particularly a Green Day tape (Dookie) that he would play over and over, a behavior I vividly remember doing myself with the Blink-182 track “All The Small Things.”  Zanetti then goes on to tell us how his “one friend” assured him that those feelings of insecurity and strangeness are never going to go away and he will never be “normal” and that is just fucking fine. He goes on to tell us how playing music, going to shows, and listening to rock and roll has made him feel better about who he is. He talks about how punk wasn’t just a phase he was going through; punk, and the people around it, are what keep him going in life.  

Do you ever feel terrified because there are so many giant, powerful, awful forces trying to control your life, and you know you could never realistically stop them from doing all sorts of terrible shit? Yeah, so does Derek Zanetti. The second track of the record, “Why?,” dives into the internal struggle of living in a world where people are often terrible to one another and not being able to change that. This track sounds exactly like his live performance. Zanetti brought some friends into the studio to help capture the live vibe, and the frantic vocals provide an intense contrast to the simple acoustic strumming.  The song covers some running themes of his records, including growing up, debt, death, being incredibly uncertain, war the economy, prisons, politicians, mental illness, and Fox fucking News.

Zanetti sings about how all these things are awful and that expressing anger about these issues can be healthy, as long as you do so in a kind and positive way. He emphasizes that we need to stand up for the people who feel scared and alone and who fall victim to forces greater than themselves, because we’re not all that different and that doing so is the only way we will ever move forward. This is exactly the type of track that got me into The Homeless Gospel Choir and what keeps me coming back.

This record is pretty fucking wonderful in every way. “Normal” offers us assurance that it’s okay to be weird, and we’re probably not going to change. It reminds us to be inclusive to others and always act with love. “Why” reminds us that, while the world is a big scary awful place, there are people just like you everywhere and you should love them.

The Homeless Gospel Choir is currently touring with ’68 and Listener, bringing punk rock all around the The United States. After that tour is over he’s jumping right back into it with Zach Quinn of PEARS, followed by a tour with Early Riser starting June 30th in Brooklyn. THGC is playing Harrisburg 7/7 at The Underground Bike Shop and Pittsburgh 7/8 at The Mr. Roboto Project. Check him out! Derek’s records are a journey through his life and mind and I feel very grateful for being a part of that trip.

The Normal 7″ can be purchased from A-F Records or downloaded on Bandcamp.

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