A Complete Disregard For Deadlines (AKA Zebrahead and Bowling For Soup New Album Reviews)

Posted: September 1, 2013 in Movies

zh-coverMy editor and publisher hate me. Every month I miss my deadline with my music review, but it is – of course – with good reason.

You see, the “last-minute” aspect of my writings is due to the fact that I want to give you, the reader, the absolute freshest, most-anticipated releases of the coming month before anyone else has even heard them – beating our competitor’s to the punch time and time again.  For the most part, this philosophy works. Sometimes, however, it leaves me in a hole that is hard to dig out of. This month is the perfect example.

I checked my mail every day in anticipation of the new release from Nine Inch Nails, knowing that it was easily going to be the most talked-about album of the fall. After a five year hiatus, Trent Reznor returns to the scene with “Hesitation Marks”, an album that fans and critics have been waiting far too long for. Nine Inch Nails, with there alternative, angry style of electro-rock, is perfect fodder for this column, so when my promotional copy arrived (already a few days after my deadline, mind you), I felt like the rock-solid review would make the powers-to-be forget all about my lack of timeliness. Then reality hit me. The album actually had to be good to make this whole “dog-and-pony” excuse work, and – well – it wasn’t.

I wrote over a thousand words about how insanely average this album was, and after editing, re-writing, and throwing every four-syllable synonym I could at it, nothing seemed to stick. The lesson learned was that a boring, uneventful record was going to yield a boring, uneventful review no matter how hard I tried, so here we are – back at square one and a week late.

But have no fear – we do have a couple of great albums this month to talk about, so without further ado, let’s get after it…

If “Hesitation Marks” showed me anything, it is that music – no matter how well-produced, clean and instrumentally perfect – is far better enjoyed when there is some attitude and fun thrown in. Unless you are at a funeral or a graduation ceremony, music should make you smile, tap your feet, and get lost in the moment. There are plenty of bands that have perfected this approach – and in the world of poppy punk rock nobody does it better than veterans Zebrahead and Bowling For Soup.

zebrahead“Call Your Friends” (releases August 13th) is the latest – and tenth – release from Californian rap-pop-punk heroes Zebrahead. Long heralded as one of punk’s best kept secrets, the band has spent the last fifteen years in the fountain of youth creating album after album of party-friendly, rap-injected anthems that take you right back to your teenage years of drinking, sexual encouters and daily confusion. The thing that’s always made Zebrahead stand out is their talent for genre mash-ups, with each member bringing a different influence to the table. These influences really stand out on this record, from the typical pop-punk, to the heavy, metal infused tracks and the odd unusual songs that whilst sounding like nothing you’ve heard before, is still every bit Zebrahead.

With track titles like “I’m Just Here For the Free Beer” and With Friends Like These, These Who Needs Herpes”, it’s clear the band, thankfully, haven’t matured a whole lot – but they have, in fact improved. The new addition of ex-Death By Stereo guitarist Dan Palmer is immediately noticeable, and his frantic solos and fills throughout the album is icing on an already-delicious cake of pop-punk perfection, and back and forth vocals from Matty Lewis and Ali Tabatabaee have never sounded better.

At times, though, Zebrahead does show their ability to get a little serious, and the tracks “Murder On The Airwaves”, “Automatic”, and “Nerd Armor” showcase a band that has maybe matured a bit. But for the most part, the songs craft around the running concept of staying up too late and drinking too much, which has always been a ZH trademark. Some detractors will claim “Call Your Friends” isn’t anything much different than their 2003 breakthrough album “MFZB”, but as far as I’m concerned – at least in this instance – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

c03b9d1dd2bc31b6b982a63a19c69189The same type of hijinx are afoot in “Lunch. Drunk. Love.”, the 12th studio release from Texas party-rockers Bowling For Soup. Following the successful recipe of albums like “Drunk Enough To Dance” and “Sorry For Partying”, the band has again uncorked the bottle of humor, heavy metal, and candy-coated pop/punk that has been responsible for such hits as “1985” and “Girls All The Bad Guys Want.” The band has always been one of the more catchy acts out there, and their penchant for writing witty songs about relationships has made them friends of the radio for the last decade.

The first single “Real” is the perfect example, as lead singer Jaret Reddick rolls his way through the break-up song of the year with such punchlines as “You want the guy from The Notebook, you got me instead…” When the tracks want to be funny, they make you laugh out loud (“Since We Broke Up”, “Normal Chicks”). When they want to lay a little more message on you, they work as well (“From The Rooftops”, “Circle”). It’s the ability to stack these tracks a top each other seamlessly that makes “Lunch. Drunk. Love.” There really isn’t anyone out there with the ability to combine open, emotional lyrics and fun, party vibes at the same time as well as Bowling For Soup, so – again – why mess with perfection?

BFSPlus, there was zero chance of the album being anything too far off the main road this time around, as the record was funded in part by the fans in what is fast becoming the “new way” of doing things these days. Instead of record labels fronting bands recording money (thus involving the labels in the creative process), a lot of bands have been recording albums on their own, through donation programs from their fans. The “fan-funding” approach still has a long way to go as a viable alternative to record labels, but the fact that veteran bands like Bowling For Soup are willing to embrace the concept adds immeasurable credibility to the idea.

Both of these records are highly recommended, not just for the quality of the music, but for the way they are going to make you feel while listening to them. You’ll be humming the memorable tracks in your head long after listening to these albums – which is what makes music such a powerful, enjoyable form of art.

Let’s just hope Mr. Reznor is listening as well….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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