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Wrecks from the Highway: CD
I picked up this CD just because it was from Scotland, and I was curious about what was going on over there. I kept it because it was a competent rockabilly CD, and I don’t have much rockabilly. It’s a good album to listen to when I’ve been listening to punk and hardcore for a while and I need a change up after all the fastballs. The guys in Z/28 play their instruments well and pull off a rockabilly sound that could just as well come from a front porch in the hills of Arkansas as from Scotland. I can’t say that it rises above the rest of the greaser pile. It’s just a good change of pace. –sean (JSNTGM)

Wir Haben Zeit: LP
Shame on whoever took the “rock” out of “punk rock” but, lucky for us, Zack Zack is somewhere in Germany working on putting it back in. This album is a garageland masterpiece. If you told me that these were long-lost Clash or Buzzcocks recordings, done in German, I would believe you. Well done.  –John Mule (Modern Action, modernactionrecords.com)

Wir Haben Zeit: LP
Zack Zack have taken the ‘77 pogo punk formula and mixed it perfectly with ‘70s powerpop to create a totally great, absolutely solid LP of catchy singalong (mostly in German) punk. A couple of these guys used to be in the ‘77 punk style band The Shocks. Fans of energetic power pop-influenced punk like The Briefs would likely be able to get into this. The hooks are undeniable while still having enough teeth for the pogo punk purist. –Mark Twistworthy (Modern Action, modernactionrecords.com)

2 Songs Demo + 4 Songs EP = Zaga Zaga 7 Inch: 7”
Super weird hardcore. The vocals are angry and piled up on top of each other. Musically though, imagine strapping the Descendents down to a table and getting all mad scientist on them, extracting all the super complex parts and globbing them together, and just throwing away all the melodic and heartfelt bits. Pretty zany. I hate the name of this record.  –mp (Kuskus, kuskusrecords.bandcamp.com)

Teenage Mutant: CS
Oh, Canaduh… you’ve given us Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, Crusades, and Unfun. Now Montreal spews out Zakary Slax, who,—like the lesser known Musketeer— might actually be the fourth Reatard. This is garage trash careening widely across the entire spectrum: the bratty bedroom recording of Childish (“Get Yr Shit Together”), Nuggets’ stomp (“DoBe”), Rip Offs’ distortion (“Complainer”), and Segall/Thee Oh Sees psyche-swaggering solos (“Stalemate,” “Disenchanted”). At a time when “musicians” and corporations are invading the garage and selling it back to the kids, Mr. Slax may be making it dangerous enough to take it back.Or burn it all down. Smoke weed, peel paint, off your parents… Zak would.  –Matt Seward (zakaryslax@gmail.com)

A.L.F.: LP
Tough listen. I can tell that this late ‘80s Polish punk band had some decent music, and the translated lyric sheet bears out a good message. But the recordings on this retrospective LP are nearly unlistenable. I’m all for documenting a scene or band of the past, but when even semi-decent recordings aren’t available, perhaps the internet is the best place for whatever does exist to be archived. That said, this is a nice package, with liner notes from the band. I suppose if you know the band and are already familiar with their songs, this could be of interest. –Chad Williams (Pasazer)

Split : LP
Crusty march-core—this stuff isn’t what I reach for first, but when done well, it stands up as well as anything out there. Actually, a lot of the record, both bands, reminds me of early Buzzoven stuff, which is one of the reasons that I liked both sides. I’ve got a problem with the Burial Year stuff, though. Musically, it’s pretty muscular and brutal (Zann, too), but there’s this part where the vocalist is blabbing about our need to make choices regarding the planet and we’ve got to do it quick, suggesting that we need to make choices to save the planet from things like pollution and global warming, but the record has gatefold packaging, which, by its very nature, would require twice as many trees and would require twice as much carbon dioxide poundage to produce. What the fuck? I like the record and all and I want to be optimistic (maybe somebody not in association with Burial Year chose such packaging), but such mixed messages leave a really sour taste in my mouth. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Adagio 830)

Awake?: CD
Awake? is Zao’s ninth album (or tenth—they re-recorded their debut eight years after its release) in their over fifteen-year existence. I think I’ve been following them for most of that and while I’ve not always been a huge Zao fan, I do recall using their music to get pumped up before intramural flag football games in college, over ten years ago. So we have a history. Their last album, the Steve Albini-recorded The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here, was a great album. The dirty, live sound made for a lot of energy and a raw feel that matched the sound of the band. Awake? on the other hand, was recorded by As I Lay Dying’s Tim Lambesis and while it sounds solid in a production sense, it’s not a sound that Zao necessarily should be pushing. After having been a forerunner of much of the metal-core sound, the latest album of ten songs sound like most of the artists who were trying to rip off Zao in the first place, including the played-out singing/screaming metal vocals. On past albums Dan Weyandt has shown he has some of the sickest vocals in metal, but here they seem boring and as though they’re going through the motions. My belief is that they were most likely eaten up in an attempt to go for a cleaner sound. If Zao were going to get back on the road and tour a ton (since 2007 they’ve become a studio band), I’d say this might be an album to help them really get noticed. It’s simple, straightforward, and has some fairly catchy riffs and choruses while still keeping a hard sound. Unfortunately, it’s that dialing down of any sense of wicked creativity that was evident at times on their former albums that causes Awake? to be an adequate, uninspired listen. And for a band that only exists in the studio that seems to be a killer. I’d say that they should call it a day, but with all the drama and line-up changes this band has produced, who knows what might happen in another two years? –kurt (Ferret)

“Xenophobe” b/w “Fear Itself”: 7”
This is the first new material from this five-piece metal act in six years and if this is any indication of the material they are working on for their next album, it is going to be pretty great. “Xenophobe” is the better song of the two, reminiscent of The Dillinger Escape Plan in its frenetic bursts that draw back into a more mesmerizing sonic journey. “Fear Itself” isn’t bad—it is more of a doomy, trudging number, more similar to what the band would’ve done in the past. Overall, this isn’t a bad offering. I’m looking forward to seeing what the full-length sounds like. –kurt (Self-released, officialzao.bandcamp.com)

Jibberjabber: CD
Bad Religion and Face To Face are the overt influences here. These guys have ‘90s skate rock down to a science. Played well, recorded well, but not something I have any interest in. –Jeff Proctor (Unsane Asylum)

Smile or Move: 7” EP
This rocks! Male vocals with cool girl back-up vocals! Power pop punk (yes, I can create a new term!) with occasional, slight hints of a throwback to Beach Boys-esque harmonies! And they’re from London! And #2, since boys can comment on how hot Roach (Groovie Ghoulies) is (and she is!), then I get to say, “These boys are cute!” If this were a cereal, it’d be Apple Jacks, sugary, but not over-the-top. Yum! –Maddy (It’s Alive)

Ain’t Nobody Left but Us: CD
Catchy UK pop punk apparently influenced by the sounds of early rock‘n’roll with a smattering of Tom Waits-ish sensibility. There’s an air of retrospective sentimentality to this, in the sense of “Where have all the good days gone when greasers spent Friday nights getting into fights?” and rock‘n’roll was still fresh and simple. Based on the mood on this record, the Zatopeks are hard-charging, looking to rock above all else, but they seem to be a bit ill-at-ease in a modern world that doesn’t always appreciate the beauty of simplicity. The lesson here is that there can (and should be) excitement in the seemingly mundane, be it a three-chord tune or chance meetings that seem innocuous at first but still haunt us for reasons unknown. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Stardumb)

About Bloody Time: CD/LP
Zatopeks surprised me. From the cover art and the band name, I expected their sound to be as moody as the cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking woman on the back cover. Instead, I was greeted by a polished sound and meticulously crafted hooks that were just as well researched as the lyrics, which are dense with history—complete with footnote citations on the insert. “Mechanised” taught me more Russian references than any world history course in my five years in college. “Acetate,” a duet that verges on sentimental without crossing the line into sappy, is a break from the momentum of the other songs, though I think I would have preferred it being a female solo. Their songs are content-rich but are catchy enough to be digested easily.  –Ashley (Monster Zero, themonstzeromash@gmail.com, monsterzero.nl / It’s Alive, info@itsaliverecords.com, itsaliverecords.com)

About Bloody Time: CD
Finally…Zatopeks are back with more of their high energy pop punk. Singer Will DeNiro’s snarly delivery almost gives the songs a Buzzcocks feel at times but as a whole they stick with the mid-tempo, polished sound they’re famous for. Some of the songs veer off their usual path like “Acetate” which has a definite ‘50s vibe to it or “Life Is Elsewhere” with its New Model Army type intro. They also show a hint of streetrock in songs “Wait For The Fall” and “Chequerboard”. All in all, another solid effort from these U.K. punks. The catchy, solid punk tunes included here made the wait for this new album well worth it.  –Brent Nimz (It’s Alive)

About Bloody Time: CD
Zatopeks has always been one of those bands that have been on the fringes of my knowledge of pop punk. I wouldn’t say that they’re bland, but their songs never sounded like anything I couldn’t find on other records. So, I don’t know if I’m just in a less angry place or if Zatopeks have changed their strategy, but About Bloody Time might be their defining statement as a band. The songwriting is clever and incredibly catchy, the vocals ride that line of being clear and blending in with the fuzz, and the songs have a range that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve heard all of them eight times before the record ends. They still play in the same vein of Copyrights without the continual feeling that the entire song is just one long chorus. Over a decade in and three albums down, Zatopeks have released a damn good record. I guess what I’m saying is, about bloody time! No? Yeah, I’ll just hide myself over here until you leave, then. Grade: B+.  –Bryan Static (Monster Zero / It’s Alive)

Split: 7”
The Zatopeks are the musical equivalent of the following exclamations: Yay! Yay! Yay! Super catchy pop punk from the U.K.! On the record cover they’re wearing Groovie Ghoulies and Ergs shirts, which is a.) a good sign! and b.) a good indication of what this sounds like. The first song is way better than the second, but you’re supposed to open with the best song, right? Still, I have to hope that they stick with the first song, classic pop punk formula in the future. Zatopeks, this is my request! The Accelerators are more on the regular punk mixed with rock‘n’roll side, with a teaspoon of pop punk for good measure. Not as good as the Zatopeks, but it’s hard for regular Mini-Wheats to compete with Apple Jacks! –Maddy (Squinty Joe)

Damn Fool Music: CD
The latest release from these prolific Europeans, who are known for their take on pop punk crossed with rock’n’roll. They seem to try to take things a little further on this one as well, with some subtle indie rock and jazz influences (especially on “Daily Mail,” which is one of my favorite tracks on the record). Other miscellaneous thoughts that popped into my head while listening involved wondering if Sonic Iguana had moved to overseas, and that the vocals sounding like a pop punk cross between Jello Biafra and Leonard Graves Phillips. –joe (Whoa Oh)

Handclaps & Bottlecaps: 7”
Two bands offer up two songs each for this 7”, and the catch? They’re all acoustic. Pop punk unplugged. The first song on side A by The Zatopeks was not all that great, and I feared the worst. But the three remaining tracks save the day. The Copyrights do acoustic versions of one song from We Didn’t Come Here to Die and one from Mutiny Pop, and they do it beautifully. I seriously want to burn the originals next to these versions and just listen to them right after another! Out of everything I’ve ever heard from The Zatopeks, their second song -“Turkish Bread Chronicle”- is now my favorite. Wonderful lyrics and flawless execution. Don’t let the acoustic theme scare you away. Aside from the first song this is a split you should probably add to your collection. –mrz (It’s Alive)

Self-Titled: LP
The sides of the LP were recorded a couple years apart, and it’s interesting to trace this band’s evolution. Basically, Zebras are a skewed, gloomy metal band with a Moog. The earlier material borrows the surging dynamics of chaotic hardcore, while the newer stuff was recorded with a more precise drummer, and moves into Today Is The Day/Am-Rep territory. It’s got catchy moments and brutal moments and the whole thing is just recorded with bile. Certainly not a fun listen, but definitely a good one. –CT Terry (Secret)

The City of Sun: LP
Fire up your search engine or pull out your books of esoterica for this one. Zebras musically remind me of early Neurosis with their complex structures that meander and climb, growing in intensity, and they have this all-demanding presence. Lyrically, Zebras are on a whole other plane. Secret histories and esoteric ideas are brought out into the (dark) light. “Levitation” presents the idea that sound can move large objects (I had a co-worker who is a musician and would talk about this all the time), and “The Bell,” which is about bending time and gives points of reference. These lyrics point the way. It’s up to you, listener, to dig deeper. This is some interesting and fascinating stuff. –Matt Average (Secret, secretrecords@live.com)

Parasitic Clones under the Strong Arm of the Robotic Machine: Split: LP
I imagine Zebras think they’re pretty cute. Reminds me quite a bit of spastic, synth-heavy bands of yore like Red Light Sting and Sick Lipstick and shit like that. They seem to be shooting for the sassy, teased-hair and white-belt audience—an audience that may or may not be still around. I mean, this would’ve been totally appropriate if it’d come out on Dim Mak or Sound Virus in, say, 2002, but culturally, I think this particular genre may have (thankfully) run its course. Unfortunately, they turned out to be head and shoulders above their vinyl partners—E=MC Hammer sounds like a bunch of people with spiritual hard-ons for Ruins and John Zorn and whatnot. As a result, they come across as pretentious as hell and trying way too hard to create something “cerebral” and “challenging”: the lyric sheet shows three songs with different names but the exact same lyrics (not that I was actually able to match up the vocalist’s yowls to any of the printed material), and there’s no real discernable moment where you can tell which “song” ends and the next begins. It pretty much comes across as some dipshit yelling and growling nonsense over some tape loops and guitars, drums and keyboards. It’s pretty sad when the best you’re hoping for out of a record is thirty seconds of musical cohesiveness. Possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of vinyl I’ve ever seen, so it’s a shame that the music itself falls so solidly between okay and shitty. –keith (Secret, myspace.com/secretrecords)

Gooey Zoo: 12"
As happens on occasion, this review will seem somewhat biased because friends of mine are in this band… and I mastered the record… but I believe I can remain objective. My objectivity becomes even more suspect since this record is FUCKING AWESOME. Seriously, this is some incredibly catchy pop in the vein of Devo-meets-Ramones-meets a bunch of garage bands I’ve never heard. Insanely memorable keyboard lines and vocal melodies that invade your brain for weeks. This isn’t even really my type of thing, but it’s quite obviously a cut above most of the bands that’d have “organ-driven” or “keyboard-fuelled” in their write-ups. Beautiful layout, too. Definitely recommended. –Dave Williams (Going Gaga)

Black Brainwave: 10” EP
An engaging cross of the Eyes bouncy bubblegum punk and the synth-laden future punk of the Epoxies to get ye bouncing ‘n’ bopping about. The right amount of each ingredient and the sense to know not to let a song overstay its welcome make this a definite Bandstand Pick to Click. –jimmy (P.Trash)

I Am a Human: LP
Another release from these punk-wavers. This time ‘round is a full-length chock full of bouncy, catchy ditties that recall the tumultuous heydays of Epoxies, Eyes, Dickies and, yes, Devo. Synths, male/female call/response vocals, tight musicianship, and the pogo-meter set on high. –jimmy (P. Trash, ptrashrecords.com)

Message in the Music: CD
I like the way that certain forms of punk are headed. I like how some bands are getting more intelligent lyrically and subject wise while at the same time they expand musically what “punk” is. Zegota is the term for Polish Catholics who helped save Jews in WWII. This CD simply amazes me. The politics might be a bit heavy handed (in the breakneck speeded, brilliant “Bike Song” the lines: “every pedal strikes a blow for freedom, every petal strikes a blow against global decay!” are a bit much, but also very catchy). But you can always choose not to read the rants that accompany each song and merely focus on the music. Lots of layered instrumentals - far, far away from the three chord verse chorus format. “$59.95” is a highlight both lyrically and musically, and invokes a more intense “Sober” by Tool or some of the more intense Fugazi. The intro is the audio equivalent of a sunrise filmed at high speed. –rich (CrimethInc.)

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