Southern California's Zebrahead is a breath of fresh air. Among recent popular rap-rock groups like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, it's nice to see a group of guys who don't take themselves too seriously. The band's second full-length release, Playmate of the Year, which follows their debut, Waste of Mind, uses a Playboy motif throughout the CD booklet. It features 2000 Playmate of the Year Jodi Ann Paterson on the cover, as well as photos of other Playmates laid out between the lyric sheets. In addition, Zebrahead also cross-promotes this Playmate of the Year with the man and the publication responsible for all the others--Hugh Hefner and Playboy.
On its album with the raunchy name, Zebrahead divides its time between rapping and singing, both driven by bass, drums, and guitars. The lead vocals are split between Ali Tabatabaee, who does most of the rapping, and guitarist Justin Mauriello, who handles the singing. Innuendo-laced lyrics abound, like, "Now she's going to my head / going to my head / I'm gonna make this milky clear / You're my Playmate of the Year" and "Let's grab a sock / It's time to rock" on the title track. It's enjoyable to hear these light-hearted lyrics for a change instead of deluge of angry rap-rock generally popular in the late '90s and early millennium.
In addition to the title track, these five musicians from California continue to entertain with "I'm Money" and "Livin' Libido Loco," while also managing to tackle social issues such as homosexuality and date rape on the track "What's Goin' On," without sounding too pretentious or preachy. For the most part, however, Playmate of the Year is dominated by a humorous and uplifting spirit. If there were an awards category for best comedic performance by a pop-punk band, my vote would certainly go to Zebrahead. And although the band's main influences seem to be pop-punk and hip-hop, they also delve into a number of other musical genres, including salsa, funk, and ska on this record.
Zebrahead has clearly established a clean style of its own with this release. The closest group to which I can pin their sound is the Brooklyn-based 2 Skinnee J's, with perhaps a little Blink-182 mixed in. Having recently played at Irving Plaza in September after touring the West Coast with Less Than Jake, Zebrahead return to the Roseland Ballroom with 311 on Nov. 3.