When we got the title for Julia Shapiro’s new album, Zorked, all we could imagine is a comic bubble popping up as Adam West’s Batman gave a right hook to the Joker. Sure, the album title is insensible, but the music is anything but.
Zorked, or ‘thunder fucked’ as the case may be, starts off embracing its namesake. The track’s dropped down to 16-speed, submerging you as if robbed of breath under a distortion so vast, you’ve got to hang a leg off the side of the bed to keep from getting the spins. ‘Hellscape’ turns the corner though, the drag is there but you can feel an ascent before you.
Each track thereafter slowly shakes off the zorkedness. ‘Come With Me’ and ‘Wrong Time’ bare inviting shoegaze-y vibes before, finally, ‘Someone’ clears away the last remaining cobwebs and, in our opinion, is an ace addition to any road trip playlist. Jules’ lyrics in ‘Wrong Time’, “life just happens to you/ as you sit and watch along/ with kickdrums opening up below you/ like pothole blows to the suspension”, put you in a contemplative state. Shapiro lays down waterphone highlights that chime and sprout past you like telephone poles in either headphone, and what lays between. There’s some real route 66 shit here, maybe our favourite track on the album in terms of all around listenability.
All this time reflecting and returning to the land of the living, otherwise known as sobriety, takes its toll. The ‘Reptile Reptile’ makes its debut, which marks the halfway point on the album. It’s a great palate cleanser, but also signifies that we’re back on a descent. It’s nearly an instrumental until Jules chimes in with muddled whispers just after the midpoint. Zorkedness. Never turn your back on a drug, especially in a Las Vegas casino a la Hunter Thompson. Suspicions later confirmed with ‘Pure Bliss’ lethargic and distorted strumming.
The album, along with the rest of us, came out of lockdown. It is the fruit of an ill-gotten alliance between isolation (Jules having just moved to LA before the lockdown) and observation (leaving a rainy/grey Seattle for this shit?). LA is a weird place; it’s got ghosts and a sordid past. The album is no different, ultra-self-reflexive with tunes like ‘Wrong Time’. A horrible gift that you’ll never give away, the burden of kindness compelling it to stay. The wrong choice at the worst time. ‘Hall of Mirrors’ goes out with a whimper – “I see what I wanna see/ never what’s in front of me”.
We’ve taken a good look at what’s in front of us and, if you buy the ticket, Zorked will definitely take you on a ride. Trip? There and back. Jules is a merciless observer of both outward and inward human behaviour but at too great a cost. You could argue that the album plunges off the deep end, but stick it on repeat and it’ll bring you back up. Eventually. An enjoyable record. An artefact really, of a time that might be forgotten but hopefully never relived.