Almost no one is waiting for the next great sophisticated indie-rock band to tiptoe up the sidewalk and tap lightly on the door, which may be tough luck for the unassuming-but-stellar Chicago outfit The Zincs, and is definitely too bad for those bound to miss out on The Zincs' tautly tuneful mood pieces. Building on the dark, sweet jangle of 2005's underheralded Dimmer, bandleader James Elkington pushes The Zincs' arrangements and overall style further toward thoughtful maturity on the band's third album, Black Pompadour, creating a seamless stitching-together of Pulp, The Sea And Cake, and Steely Dan. A typical Zincs song builds from a foundation of humming organ, lightly buzzing and strumming guitars, and baroque imagery delivered in Elkington's deep, romantic croon. On Black Pompadour, The Zincs work that formula into steady-on toe-tappers like "Coward's Corral" and "Rich Libertines," which give off the bright shimmer of clean-burning energy.
Even when Elkington reduces a song like "Dave The Slave" to a mostly acoustic drone, his voice provides color, urgency and shape. There's a restrained-but-definite earnestness about The Zincs, best-expressed in Black Pompadour's opening song, "Head East, Kaspar," where the wayward rhythm matches lyrics that are cautionary, yet reassuring. At their best—pretty much all of Black Pompadour qualifies—The Zincs sound like an accomplished friend, sharing skill and knowledge without being pretentious about it. Just listening to the precision punch of the dual guitar coda on "The Mogul's Wives," it's hard not to be grateful that talented musicians still want to make records like this for the handful of people who still want to hear them.