What is normal? And does it even matter? The Homeless Gospel Choir (AKA protest singer Derek Zanetti) manages to navigate his way through a minefield of emotions on ‘…Presents Normal’ to make an album that is forthright and strikingly honest, but filled with positivity. It’s an album that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and an ability to find balance and equilibrium in a world that frowns at those outside of the ‘normal’.
It helps that Zanetti is a masterful storyteller. ‘Normal’, essentially the title track and the crook on which the album hangs, tells Zanetti’s journey to punk rock, and his development of his sense of self as an adolescent. For everyone who enjoyed (or endured) a similar journey, it is sure to strike a chord.
Elsewhere, Zanetti rails against religion (‘Holy Shit’) and capitalist society (‘Everyone’) and tackles issues of mental health on ‘Depression’ and ‘Crazy’. The message may be unsubtle – you certainly don’t need a degree in literature, or to wade through layers of subtext to get to the point of the songs – but Zanetti tackles the topics with wit and humour.
Musically, ‘…Presents Normal’ possesses a ramshackle charm, but very much plays second fiddle to Zanetti’s lyrics. That said, ‘Depression’ is a rabble-rousing folk-punk anthem of the highest order – especially the riotous last minute or so, while ‘1983’ is a punchy crowd-pleaser with an insidious hook.
Ultimately, there’s a lot to love about The Homeless Gospel Choir, and ‘…Presents Normal’ is an unpolished diamond. Occasionally caustic but always sincere, it is protest music done right. There is little in the way of empty platitudes or worthless sloganeering, but there is an honesty that burns right to the core. It’s powerful, life-affirming – or life-changing – stuff…
‘The Homeless Gospel Choir Presents: Normal’ by The Homeless Gospel Choir is released on 18th August on A-F Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)