Written by: TL on 26/08/2008 23:48:14

While I doubt that anyone interested in bands like Zebrahead won't already know who they are by now, I'm going to give a lowdown on their sound anyway, to accommodate anyone who's only just scraped the surface of west coast pop-punk. Basically if Sum 41 got themselves a rapper and got themselves together, Zebrahead is what they'd sound like. Fast paced rapping, a survivor from the 90's rock/hiphop fusion-frenzy, crowns sunny upbeat powerpop songs driven by slightly metallic riffage. A strange hybrid for certain, but an effective one nonetheless, seeing as Zebrahead has been a guarantee for quality poppunk albums since 1998, and the band's 7th full album "Phoenix" does little to restrict it from living up to the band's reputation.

Okay so "HMP" falls flat on its face in an attempt to open up strong, but the following "Hell Yeah" is a textbook Zebrahead anthem that'll be sure to wedge its way into your consciousness if you care to give it a listen or two. The thing about "Phoenix" is, as it was on the former album, that the first couple of times you play it, you'll feel like this is a poppunk outfit on autopilot, doing the same shit they've done always and while this largely remains true for Zebrahead, playing their strenghts still work impeccably, because even if you decide to write the album off, you'll still find yourself humming along to the tunes for days later. It seems there's simply no limit to how much you can extort the combination of attitude-filled rapping, Millencolin-ish clean singing, Sum 41-ish guitars and a powerchorus. "Mental Health", "The Juggernauts" and "Ignite" lead the charge of the classic Zebrahead-anthems, before giving way by track 10, for a couple of tracks that bounce up and down rather than race ahead, namely "Mike Dexter Is A God, Mike Dexter Is A Role Model, Mike Dexter Is An Asshole" and "The Junkie And The Halo", tracks that also bear the strongest displays of a NOFX inspiration with their ska-beats and rock'n'roll solos.

While it's all too easy to listen through a Zebrahead album and write it off as just another product of their special recipe, you'd be missing the fact that there are in fact surprises to be had. "Brixton" sounds like a track Lostprophets could've written for "Start Something", and "Hit The Ground" wouldn't have surprised me on a Linkin Park album, and while some would find those comparisons to be a disservice to any band, they are welcome variations on the Zebrahead sound, without ever being in danger of alienating any fans of the band. Then "Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right, But Three Rights Make A Left" takes a bow in the direction of Blink-182, while "All For None And None For All" combines the feature of an organ with the meanest expression on the record. "Sorry, But Your Friends Are Hot" ends "Phoenix" back on the heavy and more metallic note it opened with, thus completing the circle and rounding off a nice trip through all the aspects of Zebrahead.

Truth be told though, if you're looking for any kind artistic revolution, you're looking in vain on this record, because despite all the punkrock references in the sound of the songs, the deviation from what makes a Zebrahead-song is still next to non-existant. However, if you're a punk-rock fan, chances are that you heed the "if it ain't broken don't even DARE try and fix it"-code and you'll be more than happy to take another run around the pit with a band that keep their promises - that is provided you won't be falling over all the new fans who'll be making their entry into punk-rock through the ever-increasing promotion of each new record this band makes.


Download: "The Juggernauts", "Hit The Ground", "Mental Health"
For The Fans Of: Millencolin, Sum 41, The Offspring
Listen: myspace.com/zebrahead

Release Date 04.08.2008
Many Records

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