I seem to be stuck in the UK, as I’m now writing my 9th consecutive review about a British act. But as I’ve stated many times, there’s so much incredible music talent in the UK, and today I’m thrilled to feature Cheshire-based indie rock band The Zangwills. Though they’ve been releasing music since late 2017, I wasn’t familiar with them until their PR rep reached out to me about their latest single “Never Looked Back“, which dropped on Friday the 13th of August. Contrary to the infamous date, it was most definitely my lucky day, as I’ve fallen head over heels in love with this band. To prepare for writing this review, I listened to their entire back catalogue of songs and can emphatically state that I love every single one of them. Their exciting, highly melodic music is outstanding, with a maturity of songwriting and musicianship as fine as many top big-name bands around today. As they say in Britain, these guys are dead good!
The Zangwills are Jake Vickers (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ed Dowling (bass), Sam Davies (lead guitar) and Adam Spence (drums). Formed in May 2017 while in college, they cite David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, The Cure, The Rapture and The Strokes among their influences. And while those influences can be heard in their music, their sound is still uniquely their own. Thanks to their high-quality music, charismatic, high-energy live performances, and Jake’s distinctive vocals, they’ve amassed a growing army of loyal followers throughout northwest England and beyond. They’ve opened for such acts as Yungblud and The Charlatans, and have performed at festivals like Dot 2 Dot, Focus Wales, Sound City and Wychwood Festival 2019. Their fantastic debut single “New Heights” has been streamed nearly half a million times on Spotify, with several other singles garnering over 100,000 plays.
“Never Looked Back” was produced and engineered by Mark Winterburn (5 Seconds of Summer, The Script, Plan B, James Arthur, Don Broco), and mastered by Ben Booker (Bob Dylan, Elton John, PJ Harvey, Scissor Sisters, 5 Seconds of Summer). The band states that the song is about change, “highlighting the cyclical nature of human life, and the ‘limbo’ between the stale and the fresh, and perfectly balancing out the anxiety caused by change and anticipation of a more positive future. While the verses describe the narrator’s bleak acknowledgment of an inevitable situation, the hook and the refrain illustrate a newfound hope.”
The song is utterly breathtaking, highlighted by a dramatic pulsating beat overlain with gorgeous cinematic keyboards and thunderous percussion, and punctuated throughout by piercing trill-like flourishes that raise goosebumps. The layered jangly and shimmery guitars are spectacular, and together with the aforementioned synths and percussion, burst forth into an explosive spine-tingling soundscape. Jakes fervent vocals are equal parts captivating and chilling, backed by glorious soaring choruses that send the song into the sonic stratosphere. He passionately laments about a relationship that’s deteriorated to the point that there’s no going back: “I don’t know how to spot the truth in that bag of smiles you gave me. There was still a frown or two, and through trust, I’m sat here sifting through. There’s not enough to swallow, and there’s far too much to chew. And now I see in ways I’ve never seen before. So I took that vision by the waist and I danced it to the door. And I never looked back.”
“Never Looked Back” is a magnificent song, both brilliantly arranged and flawlessly produced, and instantly one of my favorite songs of 2021. The Zangwills also now rank among my favorite indie bands, and I’m so happy to have finally discovered them.