3 out of 5
Produced by: Andy Placek
Hiding within what you might consider your core music collection – that stuff you’d like to listen to semi-consistently – there exists an album or several that you’d swear sounds super cool but you can’t remember the last time you actually put the album on. And even talking about it now, maybe you shuffle it into a playlist or move it into a ‘listen’ pile, but your secret self knows you’re likely to skip those tracks once they start to play. Despite being, for general intents and purposes, a “good band,” the music just sort of washes over you, recognizable but not really notable.
Witness: Fake Shark Real Zebra. An internet-borne sensation, FSRZ have some instantly cool bullet point traits: their punky, energetic, time-signature shredding mash-up is enacted by some undeniably skilled dudes on all fronts, with Kevin Maher’s vocals flip-flopping between both sides of the Blood Brothers screamo config, and the guitar / bass / keys weaving around and around one another, each riffing but with eyes on the 3-minute track prize. And the lyrics ain’t bad. Mindless Self Indulgence or Tub Ring might be influences, but there’s an appreciative lack of MSI’s perversity or TR’s science obsession: FSRZ’s just singing about goofy life, fairly intelligently.
But this highlights something: the band’s traits are all in comparison to something else. Which is inevitable to a certain extent, until the only way you can describe something is by, essentially, saying what it isn’t. Fake Shark are a sounds-like band: other album’s cone to mind when you put on Zebra!, and it’s those albums that end up getting the replays.
This is, admittedly, a debut, and late in the disc comes Ferrits Beullers Day Off, which embraces a poppiness that feels unique to the group’s brew, and suggests there might be more eventful listens after this one, once the band has done some growing. Zebra! Zebra! is certainly promising, and heck, you kept it in your collection, but it plays in the shadows of other, more defined acts.