Zebrahead – Get Nice! (2011)

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Music

Pop-punk has had a bit of a problem lately. The so-called “kings-of-the-scene” haven’t produced anything of late, and most of the “knights-in-waiting” have released tedious if not horrible efforts the last few years. Hell, Good Charlotte isn’t even punk anymore. The Offspring lost their step ages ago. Even the new Blink-182 single reeks of lameness with its lack of angst and overdose of sell-out, radio-made bullshit.

But don’t tell Zebrahead that they may just be saving the scene. They’re probably too busy telling fart jokes and punching each other in the nuts to really care. They’ve been everything but disrespected by the punk scene since their inception, and it hasn’t seemed to bother them one bit. While everyone else soared to super-stardom and signed immense record deals, these Orange County hooligans have seemed content just plugging along with their tongue-in-cheek lyrics and having as much fun as possible.

Commercial success hasn’t been a windfall by any means, but the band has perservered. They’re a big thing in Asia, which has payed the bills (which is why they are already listening to this album and you’re not), but the elusive stateside success has been mild lately. Fan base, Yes? Green Day success? Not even close.

All that may just change, though, with the release of the band’s eighth album Get Nice!, scheduled to hit stores sometime between the end of July and September fuckteenth, depending on your longitude coordinates. As per usual, the band isn’t shoving the album down your throat with advertisements and hype, but if there was a time to choke you – this is it.

Get Nice! is a solid collection of 14 pop-punk songs that will please even the casual listener and recaptures the flair that the scene used to be about. Zebrahead has always been about getting the last laugh, and almost unintentionally have delivered a bellowing guffaw here.

The album begins earnestly enough with “Blackout.” A smart and industrious opener, with all the pieces of the Zebrahead puzzle lined up for easy placement. Sing-along choruses, pounding, charismatic guitars, and the unmistakeable rap styling of Ali Tabatabaee. Production, as per usual, is sharp and defined, and everything comes across as clean as the Pope’s farts.

Ignored as the first single, “Nothing To Lose” relays a positive message of never giving up and self perserverance – but don’t feel bad if your not listening to the lyrical content. It’s not a song made for contemplating, it’s more about playing it loud and dancing your ass off.

I’ve always thought Zebrahead was at their best when they cranked up the jokesters within, and we get that anthem with “She Don’t Wanna Rock” – a heartbreaking tale of love discovered at a Motley Crue show that never had a chance. “I wanted Slaughter, You gave me Stryper / I’m the Iron Shiek, She’s Rowdy Rowdy Piper!” is just one line of the lyrical hilarity that fills this cup. Not since Playmate of the Year have I chuckled like that, and that’s worth noting.

Speaking of “Playmate,” it’s worth mentioning that vocalist Justin Mauriello left the band in 2004 after the success of that album and subsequent tour. So if that was the last time you payed attention to this band – that’s what is different here. It’s an obvious change, but Matty Lewis, for me, is not only a decent replacement, but the perfect new face for the band. He’s young, energetic, and amped on Red Bull smoothies – and while his previous efforts Broadcast to the World andPhoenix may have fallen a little flat, it’s obvious he’s ready to fill the tires back up with foot-pumping enthusiasm this time around.

The next two tracks have both been released as singles, and display the diversity of Zebrahead perfectly. “Ricky Bobby” is a heavy, furious punk rip with more crunch than anything else on the album, while “Get Nice!” is a made-for-the-masses singalong triumph that was made for the stage. One thing Zebrahead has always had is the ability to mix it up, and these two songs exemplify how easy it comes to them.

“The Joke’s On You” also has a heavier vibe to it, yet still maintains that “chorus” style of structure that will have the fans singing along. In fact, this whole album has an immense community vibe to it, and will play well on stage. The title here (as well as a few to come) would make you think the humor is coming – but it never really does. But more on that later…

“Nudist Priest” is creatively titled, but also is no laughing matter. It’s a lighter, poppier track, but what got my attention was the slight ska influence track. For those that go way back with the band, you’ll remember the great ska-punk moments, and while they have left that style behind, it was nice to get a little reminder here.

The next two tracks “Galileo Was Wrong” and “Truck Stops And Tail Lights” are pretty “color-by-numbers” as far as structure and execution. They are catchy and solid, but not outstanding by any means. That said, when the “filler” on an album still makes you wanna get up and dance, the band has obviously done something right.

“I’m Definitely Not Going To Miss You” is the perfect break-up song that is going to be very popular with the ladies. It’s light and airy, and encapsulates the radio-friendly attitude this album has. It’s maybe a bit more simple than it could have been, but it will get you hopping whether you want to or not.

Standing out as the best track on the back half of the album is “Too Bored To Bleed.” It’s not too far off the norm of the rest of the album, but the balance seemed better here. A slight change in key every now and then only adds dynamics to an already dynamite track.

“Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” is a return to the more rap-heavy, groove-laden style, but is still infused with the come one, come all chorus that this album can’t escape. But I think it was with intent. By keeping the choruses simple and accessible, Zebrahead is actually showing appreciation to their fans by making it easy for them to get involved.

The most forgettable track on the disc is easily “This Is Gonna Hurt You Way More Than It`s Gonna Hurt Me.” From the unoriginal title to the uninspired lyrics, I just couldn’t swallow this as easily as the rest of the album. It just seemed a little too relaxed – lacking the energy and spirit the rest of the album. Maybe I’ve just had enough of the “whoa-whoas” over the last hour of music, or maybe it was just too similar to some of the other (better written) tracks on the disc, but I think they could have omitted this one and no one would have noticed….

Closing the album is “Demon Days,” which brings back the energy and bombastic nature most of this album has carried. Tabatabaeen and guitarist Greg Bergdorf pretty much own the track, and even though it hinted a little strong at The Offspring, it still finished of the album with a bang.

All in all, it may not be the gut-busting, Bowling For Soup-styled joke the public may have wanted, but that just may be a blessing. The lulz have been replaced with a more spear-headed attempt at sincere, chart-built punk, and it might be the necessary progression for a band that has played second-fiddle on the scene for far too long.

If there was a time for Zebrahead to get the attention it deserves, it is definitely now. If there was an album with the strength to get them there, this is definitely it. It’s a pop album. It’s a punk album. And if the so-called leaders of the genre don’t deliver something worth listening to soon, it just may be the pop-punk album of the year.

8/10

Tracklist:
1. Blackout
2. Nothing To Lose
3. She Don’t Wanna Rock
4. Ricky Bobby
5. Get Nice!
6. The Joke’s On You
7. Nudist Priest
8. Galileo Was Wrong
9. Truck Stops And Tail Lights
10. I’m Definitely Not Gonna Miss You
11. Too Bored To Bleed
12. Kiss Your Ass Goodbye
13. This Is Gonna Hurt You Way More Than It`s Gonna Hurt Me
14. Demon Days

http://www.amazon.com/Get-Nice-Zebrahead/dp/B0057OGP9E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312058212&sr=8-1

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