Clare Means – “Hollywood Zoo”
With a spellbinding fusion of brooding vocals, surreal lyrics and a style of folk-rock that owes as much to vintage Neil Young as it does to post-punk, singer/songwriter Clare Means elegantly soundtracks the seedy city streets of Los Angeles with her new single, “Hollywood Zoo,” from the upcoming album Sidewalk Astronomy, available everywhere this June. Longtime fans of Means are very familiar with the intimate nature of her lyrics and the passion in her delivery. For over a decade she has acted as a stable lynchpin in the L.A. busking community, and her intimate street performances on the Santa Monica Pier and Promenade have made her somewhat of a legend in SoCal. Now, amid critical acclaim for her last single “Danger,” she looks to take the rest of the country by storm with her fourth studio album.
“Hollywood Zoo,” is an epic anthem for the burgeoning #MeToo and #Timesup movements, literally walking us through the harsh reality of the toxicity within the entertainment industry. Opening with spoken headlines and sound bites from the flood of national news stories that have come in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the soft picking of an acoustic guitar and a carefully woven string arrangement suddenly break into the white noise. Means’ voice joins the mix, and she starts to paint a disturbing picture of predatory manipulation; the promise of stardom if one does the right things and plays the right games. No matter the sacrifice of dignity or self-worth, the possibility for reward seems endless. We start to see Hollywood through the lens of Means’ lyrics; a giant zoo filled with various attractions, all penned in and deprived, made to perform and entertain us under the whip of their cruel keepers. The tempo picks up as we dive into the chorus, and the urgency in our singer seems to reach a fever pitch in synchronicity with the band.
Indeed, the stark contrast of its gorgeous beaches made of golden sand and the twisted greed that dominates the energy around Dreamland’s film sets and recording studios is beyond jarring. Were it not for Clare Mean’s infectious grooves and charmingly melodic voice, “Hollywood Zoo” might be too dark for some listeners’ palates; what is inarguable though, is the need for its subject matter to be thoroughly examined and discussed. As a society, we place an enormous burden on our artists in conveying the collective emotions we experience, especially in times of strife and heartache. Means not only champions the feminist movement in “Hollywood Zoo,” but defiantly resists against any form of sexual abuse and domination with her brilliant verse.
In 2018 and throughout the course of modern history, it has been artists like Clare Means who continue to inspire hope and action through their craft, regardless of the political and social climate around them. If this incredible new single is just a taste of what we can expect from the full-length Street Astronomy, then I think it’s safe to say we have an early frontrunner for not only the best album of the year, but also the most thought-provoking.