South American groups like Bonde do Role and CSS don't have a monopoly on '80s-inspired dance floor madness; you can be just as kitschy and electro in Finnish and German as you can in Portuguese. Just ask ZibraZibra, who drop a distinctly Scandinavian and Teutonic flavor into the tracks on 777, the follow-up to their debut album End of the Lion. The resulting collision of neon sensibility and cool calculation comes off a bit like a florid and overripe Kraftwerk, especially toward the album's end on more reserved tracks like "Spaceport" and "Cyberland."
ZibraZibra aren't just about blippy electronics and 808 kicks, though; they're equally enamored of that other '80s artifact, hair metal guitar. Squealing pinch harmonics and pointy headstocks that could put someone's eye out are in force on "The Earth Is a Clock," a track that wouldn't feel out of place on the Transformers soundtrack—the original cartoon version, not Michael Bay's recent summer blockbuster. The album's high point is "Cruisin'," an updated take on War's "Lowrider" overflowing with fuzzed-out synth bass, pitch-shifted baritone vocals, and singer Neil Zumwalde's breezy and aloof foreign language hook.
So if ZibraZibra set out to make a record equal parts new wave, hair metal, space disco, and electro, 777 is a success. But it fails to transcend its component genres to create something truly new-sounding. Music that brazenly mines the past for inspiration (the Black Keys' take on garage blues, Wolfmother's gargantuan arena rock) is most successful when it can do more than just mimic or parody its source material. Maybe that's a lot to expect from recent high school graduates, though. There's no denying they already know how to put on an outrageous and exuberant live show, even if their recorded work remains, for the time, somewhat less than transcendent.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment