Zebrahead's blend of rap-core and punk-pop doesn't pretend to be anything radical, groundbreaking, or genre-defying, but what it wholeheartedly attempts to do is give you the most enjoyable time possible whilst listening to a CD. And, boy, does it deliver.
The title of the Orange County-based band's new album, MFZB, pays tribute to the band's fan club, and gives its followers exactly what they want -- a brash, high energy album of immensely likeable tunes time after time. Yeah, there are shades of Blink 182 and bands of that ilk, but what sets Zebrahead apart from others is the sheer intensity of the material, as well as an undeniable level of consistency.
The melodies and choruses are harder hitting than an Ali punch, and more infectious than the recent bout of bird 'flu in Thailand, as frantic opener "Rescue Me" unequivocally demonstrates. Straight to the point from the first bar, the Zebrahead trademark trio of punchy riff, slamming vocals, and irresistible hook sets the tone for the album. Second track "Over the Edge" is even better, and even catchier.
The band has taken three years to follow up their previous album, the well-received Playmate of the Year, but they have returned a revitalised, pumped-up unit, with producers Cameron Webb, John Travis, and Marshall Altman providing the perfect razor-sharp sonic sheen for tracks like the bouncy "Hello Tomorrow" and the breathless abandon of "The Set-Up".
Though 16 tracks of similar-sounding material might be considered to be a dangerous tactic, Zebrahead just about gets away with it, despite one or two lulls in the quality level. Nevertheless, cuts like closing track "Dear You (Far Away)" mix things up slightly, with the only appearance of an acoustic guitar, while the brilliant "Alone" echoes the band's Rage Against the Machine and Fugazi influences and is a hotbed of energy and rock 'n' roll attitude. "Expectations" changes pace slightly, before "Falling Apart" cranks things up to 11 again, with a tenacious slice of frenetic rap-core.
After years of touring relentlessly sharing stages with the likes of the Offspring, Cypress Hill, Sugar Ray, Kid Rock, Less Than Jake, 311, and Reel Big Fish, Zebrahead have proved they are ready to make a name for themselves with MFZB. The sound rarely varies from what Zebrahead do best, and as such there's no earth-shattering experimentation here, but when each song is crafted as well as the likes of "Blur", it's tough to complain. The fans Zebrahead have dedicated this album to certainly won't be, that's for sure.