Zebrahead – ‘Brain Invaders’

By Louis Kerry

As far as longevity is concerned, pop punk really does have the superpower of never dying. The lifespan of the sub-genre has surpassed all of its detractor’s best wishes. Orange County good-time loving mob Zebrahead are a prime example of how the nostalgic scene can still thrive for over 20 years, and the band’s latest self-released album ‘Brain Invaders’ is a clear statement that there is plenty of fuel left in the pop punk tank.

Although nostalgia is a key component in how pop punk has remained so loved, Zebrahead have never been a band too afraid to cross musical boundaries, which makes each of their albums so distinct, but without ever seeming to wander too far in the realms of experimentation or seriousness. ‘Brain Invaders’ is full of the band’s distinctive party anthems, as well as welcoming plenty of new ideas to the table.

Opening track ‘When Both Sides Suck, We’re All Winners’ launches to an audacious thrash metal riff, sending shockwaves through your body and causing the dreaded headbanging reflex to run wild. Whilst lead guitarist Dan Palmer letting out his inner Metallica is an early highlight, it’s not long until you’re reminded of the distinct chemistry that dual vocalists Ali Tabatabaee and Matty Lewis have together. ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ is vintage Zebrahead. Lewis’ clean, melodic and forever catchy choruses combined with Tabatabaee’s unique hip hop vocal style has continued to be their most recognisable asset, as it offers a refreshing and in-your face burst of chaotic energy.

Both ‘Chasing the Sun’ and ‘Up In Smoke’ are laid back, summertime singalongs that can do no wrong, in the band’s vintage laid back approach that you can crack open a beer to. ‘All My Friends Are Nobodies’ is a fist raising anthem that carries all of the typical pop punk conventions, full of teenage angst but with a heartwarming message of looking out for each other that is bound to get pits going and friends hugging at festivals this year.

Having constantly been on tour with the likes of Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake over the years, their comrades’ ska roots have clearly rubbed off on Zebrahead. ‘You Don’t Know Anything About Me’ is filled with a euphoric brass section which adds a new dimension to the band’s already multifaceted outing – a bit of skanking alongside a lung-splitting chorus is certainly welcome.

Whilst unashamed to throw other influences into the mix – whether that be thrash metal, hip hop, or ska – Zebrahead’s collection of inclusive and super-speed anthems are ultimately all about just enjoying life and having fun. ‘Brain Invaders’ is the epitome of what has helped pop punk continue to flourish.

LOUIS KERRY

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