Zachary Oberzan,
Athletes of Romance
(independent, 2006)

Athletes of Romance is a theme album. It sounds to be rooted in the lives of people who are instinctively into their bodies. Instinctively into themselves. Where the actual romance comes in is a bit of a mystery.

Zachary Oberzan has a distinct voice, with an edge and smoothness that is captivating. His music strongly touches on English pop-folk with a voodoo spell running in the background. He's got a great picture on the album liner, a handsome and brooding face. There's good music and great sounds in "The Beauty of Me" and "Peculiar Wedding," for example. But, on the other hand....

Romancing oneself, or even someone else, might seem a waste of time in this difficult existence we share on a planet going nowhere but around and around, and that's the message I get from the endless round of 17 songs on this futile CD.

The songs are futile, the lyrics futile, they go off like empty fireworks sputtering in the air and dying with no tail. Though musically there's a good bit to hold onto, and his live performance probably adds another dimension to an attentive audience that might balance the black mood created on the CD.

Perhaps I'm missing the point, but if I am, then no point does exist. If the point is there's no point, then things have gone beyond wasting my time into stealing my time. If it's all tongue-in-cheek then I've definitely missed it.

It's original. It's quirky, sometimes insultingly quirky. Quirky done with thought and discipline is simply genius; without, simply boring. And that may be right where this is supposed to be.

Oberzan is no doubt an acquired New York taste and the CD is in a category of its own that is unlike anything I've ever heard. Or will likely hear again, unless I move into mood music and want to watch the hair on my arm stand on end. As a poetic experience, it's not my pick, but it is one and it might be yours.

by Virginia MacIsaac
23 December 2006

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