The status quo and feelings of idleness are rarely winning material for pop songs, yet this third album, as the title suggests, is about glorifying the fact that nothing is gained—and nothing is lost—in Zoot Woman's world: The trio has simply gotten better and better at what they do. Included here are "We Won't Break" and "Live in My Head," the two low-key singles the band released in the past two years. The latter is especially reminiscent of the kind of ascending, major key pop à la "Hung Up" and "Sorry" Price so successfully produced for Madonna in 2005, and the same principle is applied to "Saturation" and "Things Are What They Used to Be," a duo that keep building and building to a liberating coda. Despite barely lasting four minutes, the title track is the closest Zoot Woman has ever gotten to pure, unadulterated dance floor-material euphoria.
Those looking for complexity will be disappointed. As always, Price rhythm section is overtly simple: the bass is pounding and repetitive and the kick drum is upfront in the mix, something he has perfected over the course of the years with his calculated-and-eight-minutes-every-time Thin White Duke remixes. This doesn't always work well in the context of the 3-minute pop song, though, as displayed on the slightly cacophonic "Memory" and "More Than Ever." But despite Price's sonic persona being overbearingly present, Zoot Woman's underestimated strength is Johnny Blake's voice. Suspended between resigned melancholy and hushed hopes, it shines with vulnerability on album opener "Just a Friend of Mine" and "Lonely by Your Side," a collaboration between Black and Azzido Da Bass that found its way on a Kitsuné compilation three years ago, and is happily resurrected here.
Predictable in many ways but still displaying a strong sense of self, Zoot Woman's Things Are What They Used to Be is a welcome return from everyone's favorite electro-pop underachievers and a surprising testament to Stuart Price's long-lasting virtuosity.