Zeeb? are from Ipswich, and are all aliens. Well, that’s what the press release says – and who would dare to question such a bastion of coldly judged truth? This, their first album, is a concept album about assimilating Earth on behalf of their mother-planet as told through the medium of synthesiser, bleeping noises, samples and, above all, grinding rock’n’roll.
Those among you who aren’t given to allowing fantastical delusions to provide a brief distraction from the cold, grey nature of reality may by now have realised that Zeeb? are something of a joke band. The laughs here lie entirely in the concept. The band may jest on the press release and record sleeve, they may dress up as aliens at the drop of a hat, but the music is strictly serious – or if it isn’t, any humour it may contain is lost under the wall of noise.
This leads to something of a conflict of interest. On the one hand, Zeeb? present humour first and foremost, with the music subservient to the concept. On the other hand, this can only really be listened to as a straight rock’n’roll album, because nothing else comes through on record. I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate tactic or an accident of recording, but either way it doesn’t quite cut it.
There are some very good moments indeed; times when the grinding guitars sound like they’re out to get you; when the synthesisers sound genuinely otherworldly; when a joke pokes its head above the parapet (I am… the almighty Zeebus Christ) – moments when the concept and the tunes fuse and there’s a flash of appreciative comprehension. And the beatboxing ’Zeeb? Ameoba’ is an act of genuine genius. But taken as a whole, the album just doesn’t leap the gap between stage show and recording studio. Zeeb? seem uncertain as to whether to go for the all-out joke or the play-it-straight approach, and end up falling down the gap between the two. It’s a shame, as there’re some damn fine ideas in here which deserve to burst into bloom. The key, I suspect, lies in the live show…