The name Listo might not be instantly familiar, but you have heard of them. A few years ago they starred in an advertisement for a mobile phone company. The band never made it and they split. The members continued to socialise with each other and other musicians in the pubs of Dublin's music scene and, through a number of different incarnations, Humanzi were formed.
Humanzi have been dogged by rumours that the deal they signed with Fiction Records (owned by Polydor, which is in turn owned by music giant Universal) was in the region of €1.5m. The band scoffed at ideas of a megabucks deal, but the rumours just will not go away.
Which creates an image problem for Humanzi. Enormous deals with Universal and a lineage that goes back to a band that courted mobile phone companies for success are fine for some people, but Humanzi have attempted to cultivate an image of a band with a social conscience. They are a band worried by the direction the world is going, and they have adorned themselves with all the accoutrements of trendy leftist anti-capitalist peaceniks.
Moreover, as becomes evident on 'Tremors', Humanzi have none of the musical or lyrical substance of similarly socially aware bands such as Rage Against the Machine.
The album, like the best Leaving Cert English essays, starts well, hides its dull bits in the middle, and ends on a strong note. There are a couple of good songs: 'Fix the Cracks', '6 Gun', 'Diet Pills and Magazines' (at the start) and 'Out on a Wire' and 'Song of Understanding' (at the end). It is easy to see why Humanzi were signed; they can certainly write a decent song with a good hook.
Unfortunately, musical proficiency and one or two decent songs do not set Humanzi apart from the glut of other bands championed by major labels on both sides of the Atlantic. The middle of the album is bloated, as if the ideas ran short and were patched over by clever producers. 'Get Your Shit Together', to select just one song, is an awful lot of big noise and small ideas; the band chanting "get your shit together, right on" over a frenzied thrashing of guitars and drums. It is as silly as rock and roll gets, and offers the listener very little.
'Tremors' promises far more than it delivers. Humanzi have yet to show that they have the ability to deliver the political message they flirt with, or write songs that have real substance. But they show sufficient potential to suggest they will grow into the role.
Barry J Whyte