Billy the Zombie Kid

“Golden Rainbows/Diamonds in the Fire” – Billy the Zombie Kid

Every now and then a song comes along that’s as shiny and pop-saturated as can be and, somehow, all the things that bug the shit out of me when it comes to a lot of 21st-century pop just melt away. It’s often kind of a mystery but with “Golden Rainbows/Diamonds in the Fire” let’s see if we can puzzle out why.

To begin with, the cold a capella opening is not only a nice touch but quickly demonstrates some harmonic sophistication—take a listen to how that wordless countermelody snakes around the main melody, complicating what you’re hearing so that you are given the song’s central hook while also having it partially hidden. This allows it later to feel both familiar and new at the same time.

When the song kicks in (0:18), we get an upbeat dance vibe, but only sort of: there’s something patient and easygoing in the air, despite the beat, a feeling reinforced by those measured, four-note synth lines that we hear before the vocals start, with their sly three-notes-off-the-beat rhythm. The ongoing sensation that a little more is going on here than standard-issue pop is reaffirmed by that little wah-wah comment we first hear at 0:42—entirely unnecessary and as a result indicative of a guiding intelligence that isn’t just about formula and expectation.

Before we are led at last back to the big hook of the chorus, we are set up at 0:52 by a pre-chorus that adheres more or less to one note and stays almost completely on the beat. This, to my ears, makes all the more satisfying the incisive melodic leaps of the chorus, as well as its adroit alternation between two measures of singing on the beat and two off the beat. And I don’t mean to make too much of this on/off-the-beat distinction, but in the context of 21st-century pop music, which has been simplified and compressed into oblivion, I applaud any evidence of ear-pleasing songwriting craft. And applaud even further any pop song that saves room for a serious guitar solo (2:48, don’t miss it!).

Billy the Zombie Kid is a four-piece band from Borlänge, Sweden, an industrial town 130 or so miles north and west of Stockholm. The band began in 2013 as an unnamed solo project from singer/guitarist Stefan Altzar. Acquiring members and a name over the course of the year, Billy the Zombie Kid released four songs online in 2014, began playing locally, and started recording in earnest in the latter part of 2015. The end result is the album entitled We’re Always Right, which was released on the label Alternative Alien Baby in July 2016. You can listen to the whole thing and download it for free via SoundCloud. Thanks to the band for the MP3.

  1. Murphy's Law on Friday February 24, 2017

    That guitar solo is the best! Very late ’80’s. I hadn’t noticed how few guitar solos there are in pop music anymore.