Enuff Z'nuff Biography
And Ten delivers the distilled direct hit, the Cupid's arrow through the broken heart, the rock radio love-in that a fortunate few have come to expect from this legendary Chicago institution. Indeed, Ten is quite simply pop heaven, few power chords in sight, hooks overflowing the band's party tumblers, jangly, lush acoustic guitars driving twelve songwriting theses that to a man, woman and teenbeat heart, any of which could skyrocket to number one with a lipstick kiss.
Why the title Ten? "We had more descriptive titles but Donnie hated every one of them," laughs Chip Znuff. "Ricky came up with the title One After Nine and Donnie's rap was, 'Chip, look, you and I have written ten albums together,' and he said to Ricky, 'this is our tenth album; you have to understand that. It means a lot to us, it's quite an accomplishment - especially in this day and age - to put ten albums out. Let's just call it Ten. And then we thought, let's just go with the cover that started it all off when we had Doc McGee managing the band. "So the album cover is a "1" with a green peace sign right next to it. Same artwork, you know, [but] let's not confuse anybody, that album did very well for us around the world. It had some smash hits on there with 'New Thing' and 'Fly High Michelle' and here we are with our tenth album and I think some songs on here are easily as strong as those on the first album. We've come up with some great stuff. Donnie's singing is better than ever and the guitar playing on the record is great. But what the band needs now is to hit the streets and support the album."
The key, as always, is the quest for the perfect song. Chip, Donnie, Ricky and Monaco never at a loss for material, but until now, perhaps at a loss for the plush benefit of expensive studio surroundings in which to buff gleam their vision. This has been rectified for what might be the band's paramount, layered and lovely statement, their push up the ladder, their AM/FM command performance. Not that there was a budget. "We were still sneaking into studios after curfew on janitor's hours to make this record in the same places as Pearl Jam, Jesus Lizard and Smashing Pumpkins make their records, CRC, Chicago Recording Company, as well as Johnny K's Groovemaster Studio (Disturbed, Loudmouth), Velvet Shirt (Liz Phair), Startracks (Blondie, Ray Charles, INXS) and Gravity, where Veruca Salt did their last record. "Along with this of course, came an army of good engineers, and we were lucky enough to bag Chris Shepard who just did the Wilco record. He was kind enough to come down and mix this record for us. He has a great sense of balance. It does sound like a record that took a little while to make. It did take a little bit of thought, there's no doubt about that. But we've been through the rodeo so much as a band, that we know what to expect when we go into the studio. We know what to play. Believe it or not, we did everything on 24 tracks, the whole record. We didn't synch up two machines like everybody else does. We just played and recorded live with minimal overdubs.
"But if at the same time we said let's not go too crazy with overdubs, we also allowed ourselves to use what was needed. And Chris Shepard does lush mixes. The guy mixes KMFDM one week and the next week he's doing Pumpkins and then he's doing Wilco; he is very diversified. And he lets me sit in the room with him. I don't put my name on the records as mixing the record, because I'm already on them as a writer and as a producer. But I sit right there and I give him ideas and I try to listen to the record as an outsider. Because I'm too close to these songs. I have to take it the way I hear it and compare it to the great records I listened to growing up, and I sort of use that as a barometer. That's what Enuff Znuff does. We don't steal anything. We're influenced by musicians and music. "And you show me a band without influences, and I'll show you a band without a record deal (laughs)." Enuff Znuff's influences are well-documented. But they are also hard to speak to or address lightly, bands like The Beatles and Cheap Trick coming to mind immediately, each receiving more than a tipped hat through the Enuff Znuff canon. But Chip and Donnie are two of the greatest songsmiths who ever dared go there, and throughout the band's celebrated catalogue, Enuff Znuff have had no problem creating lasting, rewarding rainbow impressions of their own.
Ten is no different, the band creating a record perhaps destined to contain a disproportionate amount of timeless moments, given its creamy pop surrender, this particular collection of confections seeking the crux of a formula that has been cooing sweet somethings in this band's ear for a long, long time. In a world of justice, in a world of accurately calibrated risk/return ratios, all twelve tracks here could be chart-toppers. 'Wake Up', Donnie jokes "is our 'Stairway To Heaven'." Chip is more grounded on the tune, but loves Donnie's edgy vocal, offering that the lyric is more straight forward than the arrangement: "If you've got love, hang on to it."
'The Beast' combines Tom Petty, The Byrds and Blue Oyster Cult. Once more, the arrangement is driven by moody acoustic extravagance, the lyric described by Chip thusly: "That's pretty much Donnie's autobiography, with a strong message and a musical track that is very '60s. Timeless though I would say, both the message and the production. Donnie's lyric is about basically what not to do. Be careful. Watch that thing inside of you that makes you tick. It has the propensity to get you in trouble at any moment. I think that's what he's trying to say. Nice words. Watch the demon within us all."
One of the most gorgeous light moments on the album is the opener, 'There Goes My Heart', propelled by an irresistible bounce, layers of sonic fun, and a lyric that just has you shaking your head wondering why Enuff Znuff aren't shuffling through palaces lined with platinum awards. Chip: "Yeah, that one's got a great lyric, with Donnie going through the days of the week, the months of the year, just really profound, if I don't say so myself (laughs)." 'What Can I Do' is similarly artful, although its main ace is its bluster, cooked up using fine tooling, where in the old days, the band might have resorted to a stack of Marshalls. "Tracked in about four hours, believe it or not. Basically a pop song that was played very aggressively. It was supposed to be acoustic and laid back, but it ended up rockin' with kind of a Squeeze vibe. Donnie is playing some excellent piano in there, vintage Jerry Lee Lewis." 'Holiday' is the last of four songs tracked at the Groovemaster sessions. Once more, the band's irrepressible optimism comes to the fore. "The lyric is about looking for a place to go, to escape, doesn't matter where it's at. There's room for us anywhere.
"'Bang On' might be the sound of the party once we all arrive, complete with handclaps, a bit of boogie, some Sweet, some 'Clock Strikes Ten'. That one we were lucky enough to record live onto eight track. Derek Frigo playing lead guitar on that, just a really straight-up, old school, Rock 101-type song. It's all tied together in one big bow there. It's got a bit of the glam vibe, a little Radiohead. Lyrically it's all about the rock life, banging on your drum; it's full of piss and vinegar."
Other surprises include the band's cover of Bowie's 'The Jean Genie', lead vocal (and most of the guitars) by Chip. "It's just a great non-linear lyric, very eclectic, very '70s, and we took a very organic approach, played it live in the studio." Also, look for a new mix of Cheap Trick cover 'Everything Works If You Let It', reconstituted to bring up the guest guitar work, performed by Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins. Although this track was offered on the band's well-regarded Paraphernalia album from '99, Corgan had remarked that he couldn't hear his guitars. Problem solved. And I might add that this version is not included on the Japanese issue of Ten!
But perhaps the sparkly gem of the album would be 'Your Heart's No Good...But I Love Your Face,' an awesome placement of pleasurable sounds, hooks a'plenty, a cloud-breaking break, a track so good it's already been covered by Mercury recording artists Swirl 360. Weird, huh? "Naw, I like that idea," reflects Chip. "Who cares who drives the bus, let's just get to the picnic. That's my philosophy." More studio wizardry took place on the complicated 'Fly Away' or at least it sounds tricky. "We recorded that over at Gravity Studios. In one day, Donnie and I produced it, took about four or five hours, mixed it the next day with Doug McBride a great engineer here in Chicago. It's really proggy. The lyric is really non-linear, and it has that sound of today, with that vocal, which was probably implied on purpose. I think it really fits the track. Most songs in the studio now, you're recording with a two inch, or digital recording where there are tons of tracks. "This album, it just has a primitive, organic feel to it. We've always liked that school because all our favorite bands are from there, where they really had to play and they really had to sing. And the studio gadgetry and the bells and whistles that happen sometimes, that's only to give a record a vibe and maybe segue into songs. But we're really a band that plays one song and finishes and goes on to the next one." Whatever your pleasure, no one with a heart could, should or would resist the sweets the Znuffsters have served up at this outdoor jamboree. There is too much to choose from, all of it cooked, caked and iced with pride, all of it airy, energetic yet underscored with substance.
It proves, as I say, what a devoted and discerning following already know: Enuff Znuff are the most under-rated pop band in the world. You deserve this band as much as they deserve your kind words. Let's make happen what should have happened (and did for awhile) ten great records ago. Let's hear this record everywhere. Last word goes to Chip. "Very simply put, if this record came out in the '70s, because of some of the songs on this record, it would probably be construed as English metal. It's a pop record, is what it is. We've always written pop songs. Donnie and I come from that sensibility. We've always worn our influences on our sleeve. "And I think this record just follows suit with what Enuff Znuff has always done which is to try and write great songs and put out strong records every single year. And we nailed it again. Whether our critics believe that or not, it doesn't matter. In our minds, we make records for ourselves. And if we dig them, we'll let you guys hear 'em too, and hopefully it will trip your trigger. Otherwise the songs don't get out there. It's that simple."