I cant really say with a full duty of candour that I knew much about Zebrahead before I was commissioned to review this latest release. Put it this way, if I was doing the tedious exercise of putting my music collection from A to Z, Zodiac Mindwarp and Ziggy Marley – even ZZ Top – would be there, well ahead of Zebrahead. But this would be a poor curatorial choice on my behalf, as Zebrahead are in the UK a major cult band. After twelve albums since there initial creation in 1995, this US Orange County eclectic punk ground have released twelve studio albums to date. And their latest release – Brain Invaders – plays to their strengths and is a corker. Established fans will love this album probably in equal measure to the vast swathes of new followers that Brain Invaders will inevitably attract.
Out of the 14 tracks that make up Brain Invaders, twelve are from the outset just ‘pedal to the metal” no-nonsense, bollocks-out rock. When I say “rock”, I mean it in the broadest sense of the term, as Zebrahead career through variations of the genre: punk rock / pop-punk / ska-punk / death metal / pure pop et al- its all here. They have literally thrown the everything plus the neighbours kitchen sink into this production, and in the desolation of such destruction the triumph of Brain Invaders emerges. Sonically, it is akin to a WWE drop-kick to the solar plexus, the pop-sensibility of the vocals of Marty Lewis remind these ears of Blink 182 meets RATM in a Motörhead mashup. You have to love the titles also: “When Both Sides Suck, We’re AllWinners”; “All My Friends Are Nobodies”, and that brilliant end to every conversation “Take A Deep Breath (And Go Fuck Yourself)”. Zebrahead are just nailing this. “You Don’t Know Anything About me” starts off with a great ska brass lick which succeeds in turning energy levels to 11. “Chasing The Sun” starts in The Clash territory before shifting into RHCP and then getting heavy, loud and aggressive. The rapping of Ali Tabatabaee hits the bullseye every time. The last track “Bullet On The Brain” starts off with a bass-lick as in homage to the old master himself – Lemmy – and the band come out swinging, the aggressive rapping co-existing in symbiotic glory with the pop-sensibility.
Perhaps the purists may dismiss Zebrahead as a pastiche of a number of bands who have, or continue to mine the same musical coalface. But the point of this band is that they are so good at what they do, and after twelve albums since 1995, they have earned the right to be leaders of this particular pack. Check out Brain Invaders – its infectious, catchy, imaginative and bloody fantastic. A sonic attack on the sense that you won’t want to recover from.