Zachery Starkey Record Release at Skully’s Friday Night

starksmall.jpg Chances are if you are even remotely interested in the arts in Columbus, you know who Zach Starkey is, if not by name, then at least by sight. In promoting both his music and his photography, his face has been plastered around town. Starkey’s also been an active observer, and chances are you’ve seen him at a rock show or an art gallery; he’s hard to miss in his Robert Smithian styled coif. And if you’ve spent any time on the Donewaiting message board, you’ve probably also read his divisive rants as well.

But why does any of this matter? It doesn’t really, other than there are probably plenty of preconceived notions about the guy. So with that said, he’s releasing a record and it’s time to put all that aside and take the record at face (er, no pun intended) value.

The appropriately titled Solitaire was largely played by Starkey himself, with Ray Gunn helping out on guitar for a few tracks. Relying on synths and machinated beats for his backing, Starkey’s points of references come from the early ’80s, situated somewhere between Vincent Clarke-era Depeche Mode (see leadoff cut “Nuclear Star” and “In the Dark”), Human League (see “The Eyes of Gold”) and Gary Numan (“Bye Bye Love”). He only breaks from this motif for “I Don’t Live in Washington Beach,” a chicken-scratched, punky jab at Columbus’ fabricated hip locale, and ironically enough, it’s one of the record’s best cuts. While the album is musically engaging, its shortcoming is Starkey’s vocals, which, especially when contrasted with the electronic lushness, sound flat (with a bit of karaoke-quality echo only making matters worse). When Starkey’s musings are pushed back in the mix (as on “Not Enough”), the results are better, his weaknesses masked by his strengths. But that’s too often not the case, and hence the record’s failings are just as apparent as its successes, making for an off-putting mix.

MP3: I Don’t Live in Washington Beach

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