Zebrahead - Get Nice!
Record Label: Rude Records
Release Date: July 29, 2011
"Basically the theme of the record is about doing something you consider nice. When we say ďNiceĒ, itís slang and has several meanings. For example playing dominoes with the elderly, or just sniffing glue and shotgunning beers."
- Matty Lewis, Zebrahead
Zebrahead are not a conventional band. Their music doesnít fit in any specific style; they tirelessly spread their love about tacos, beer, partying and, apparently, sniffing glue; and yet, after 15 years of a very active existence, with only one change in their roster, they appear to be in their best form ever, while seeming like genuinely good people.
To those who arenít familiar with the bunch, its core sound can be described as a rock/punk instrumentation with various other influences, giving way to a dual vocals dynamic between a vocalist with a punk background (Matty Lewis), and other with some visible hip-hop influences (Ali Tabatabaee). For obvious reasons, this combination couldíve easily gone wrong. Fortunately, it didnít, as rather than an awkward amalgamation, the band managed to craft a trademark style, taking advantage of the talented duo's capacities.
To name their most praised album to date would be fiercely debatable. In my opinion, such a title unquestionably belongs to 2003ís MFZB. As for their last record, Phoenix (released in 2008), it was pretty solid work, which, although not exclusively, showed a progression towards a heavier sound. Get Nice!, on the contrary, displays a clear leaning towards pop-punk. Through this review, Iíll try to point out how well this choice worked out for Zebrahead, and how better this record is when compared to its predecessor.
That being said, Get Nice! kicks off with "Blackout", a strong, fast-paced, energetic song, with an excellent guitar work and a typical intercalation between the bandís both vocalists, culminating in a catchy chorus. The song that follows, "Nothing to Lose", is surely one of the highlights of the record. Starting with a characteristic Tabatabaee rapping, what really grabs our attention is the impressively memorable chorus, as Matty Lewis chants ďCause I got nothing to lose / I got nothing to prove / I got nothing to lose / I'm not giving up / I'm not giving in / I got no excuseĒ, showing us just how good of a pop-punk vocalist he has become.
After it, comes the fun song "She Donít Wanna Rock", which despite being in fact funny, kind of ruins the momentum of the record. But let us not dwell on that, as our energy levels will surely be restored through "Ricky Bobby", a frenetic, hard rock tune which would fit perfectly in Phoenix. The song will give way to another highlight of the record, "Get Nice!".
"Get Nice!" is an outstanding pop-punk anthem that, given its lyrics, makes me think if it was written as a dedication to the bandís Japanese fans (a country in which Zebrahead are particularly big). Again, the refrain is huge and followed by an impressive bridge, in which Tabatabaee who's supported flawlessly by the bandís guitarists, sings ďIf you lose heart then you gotta put yourself up / Brand new start when everythingís tensed up / Can't break apart when you really get a sense that / You are not aloneĒ, and so on.
Another song definitely worth mentioning is the seventh, "Nudist Priest", which starts with some promising gang vocals and shows the effectiveness of having two vocalists. Each have their own style, continuously exchanging verses and leading to a joyful and infectious chorus that may leave you humming along to for the entire summer. Again, the instrumental is very competent. "Truck Stops and Tail Lights", a song about leaving oneís town for good, and "Iím Definitely Not Gonna Miss You", a manifesto against the usual evil ex-girlfriend worthy of a Living With Lions record follow the same scheme. Another impressive display of all of the band memberís skills is clear here, providing us with some more cheerful, energetic and catchy songs, as well as some well-placed guitar solos. The song that follows, "Too Bored to Bleed", reminds us a little bit about Green Day, while "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" recalls "Juggernauts", a song from their previous album, in which Tabatabaee is the main protagonist. He raps for most of the part, leaving to Lewis an extremely appealing refrain.
The thirteenth song, "This Is Gonna Hurt You Way More Than Itís Gonna Hurt Me" starts off with a suspiciously poppy melody, bursting immediately in a furious guitar riff, giving way to another characteristic Zebrahead tune. "Demon Days" closes the record in good fashion, being one of its most fast paced songs. I should also mention both bonus tracks, "Light Up the Sky", another good piece of work that would fit perfectly in the album, and "A Freak Gasoline Fight Accident", that, while not being as good, is something worth listening to as well.
As any good old pop-punk record, besides the catchy melodies and guitar work, Get Nice! has some massive gang vocals and an occasional ďwhoaĒ (well) placed here and there. And, in fact, thatís what this record is Ė a really well-crafted pop-punk record in its essence, created by a band that managed to take advantage of all of its talent and experience. It has some of the most appealing choruses I have ever heard, a never-ending catalog of phenomenal guitar riffs (courtesy of Greg Bergdorf and Matty Lewis) and an excellent cohabitation of both vocalistsí styles.
That being said, 2011ís summer has been fantastic for the fans of the genre, due to the outcomes of the increasing talent of bands such as The Wonder Years, Fireworks, The Story So Far, and so on. Zebraheadís latest work is as good. They are not a conventional band; they have managed to create and develop a unique sound and, if these bandís records have each their own characteristic vibe, Get Nice!'s feel is one of energy and cheerfulness that, throughout its 49 minutes, will surely put a smile on our faces and lighten up our darkest moods.
MFZB will always be their best. Broadcast, IMO, was more heavier and darker than Pheonix. Pheonix was the band finally figuring out their sound with the new guy (who joined post-MFZB, obviously). This is a very good follow up. Truth be told I don't hate any of their records. I still listen to Waste Of Mind. Each record has a few songs that I have to bump. It's a shame they don't fucking tour here (like The Living End), with the exception of warped tour but that tour is too short a playlist to fully enjoy them. I will definitely be seeing them if they ever put on their own tour here in the US