Every once in a while I’ll hear a band that truly defies convention in favor of something which I’ll call ‘art’. Zappien is one of those rare artists that have chosen art over commerce, and with unique results.
Zappien’s trappings might be in a misguided critic lumping them into the ‘indie’ label, a term that has replaced ‘alternative’ several years ago as a non-traditional type of rock music. But Zappien’s self titled album is not only non-traditional, it’s also hard to define as a whole. You can hear influences from Zappa to the latest indie boy sensations. It’s a collage of rock, punk, jazz, funk and Mr. Bungle weirdness. The musicianship is top notch, jumping from genre to genre without missing a step. In fact, part of the fun of this band is wondering where they’re going next.
However, underneath the fidgety layers there are actual melodies and songs that keep them from becoming another self indulgent group of arrogant and self important artists.
It’s hard to pinpoint any particular song as a ‘single’ as the whole of this album is more the sum of its parts, the songs flow into one another and I’ve read that this could be construed as part of a concept in which each song becomes part of a larger song, something few artists can pull off even on a good day. Maybe this is Zappien’s version of “The Wall” or Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”. Alot of thought and conceptualizing has gone into this record and with ringleader Carlos Zappien’s background in science and technology, there’s a chemistry within the songs and musicianship that feel like a mathrock experiment mixed with a heavy dose of the 70’s theatrics. In the wrong hands, this could be disastrous! BUT, thankfully Zappien and friends carefully constructed this wonderfully chaotic and mesmerizing album with precision and strong dynamics, with fully realized vocal harmonies, horns, ripping guitars, bass and drums.
It reminds me of what I loved about college radio, the experimentation and ‘anything goes’ attitude, leaving no stone unturned.