Review Summary: The musical pursuits found here have much promise, but are completely and utterly maimed by Carlos Zappien’s wretched and unintentionally hilarious (possibly intentionally) vocal performance.
The vocals on an album managing to completely sink the entire record as a whole is no small feat, but Canadian “rock” band Zappien seems to have accomplished this with finesse. Every song on the Montreal rockers self-titled debut album begins promisingly enough with guitar work paired with an atmosphere that brings post punk revivalists such as Franz Ferdinand and Interpol to mind, but then as the intros end and the singing kicks in, everything falls into disarray.
Frontman Carlos Zappien’s vocal performance is horrid to a laughable extent. He sputters on throughout songs in a monotone pitch and occasionally lets out ear-wrenching wails clustered together. It’s seriously questionable whether or not the man is tone deaf, as every single line he delivers is off-key, and met with painfully obvious strain; he can’t hold a note for more than 2 seconds to save his life. His singing pattern is erratically nonsensical and disjointed beyond belief, with garbled words of longing and lost love awkwardly jumbled together between whining wails bereft of melodies and hooks.
It would be bad enough if it was just these vocals that was Zappien
’s one overwhelming flaw, but for whatever reason, the music that backs Carlos Zappien’s barely tolerable performance decides to take after his example and just completely fall apart on every track as soon as he opens his mouth. To reiterate, the songs begin with great potential, with sounds reminiscent of a variety of influences, notably the track “Lemon Drop” which has some horns here and there. But as soon as the vocals come into play, the music falls into a random and incoherent mess of noise that is quite similar to the album’s vocals, disjointed and awkwardly arranged to a point far beyond irritating, as if the group just forgot how to play their instruments.
Zappien actually only has two official members, Carlos Zappien himself, and drummer Sevy Plant, with a group of guest musicians covering all other musical areas. It’s a shame that Zappien’s musical style doesn’t vary enough for these guest musician’s contributions to be recognized without researching the band, because the idea of guest musicians covering most of an album’s essentials has a lot of potential if the idea is fully realized, but unfortunately any of this potential would be squandered by Carlos’s unbearable vocals anyway.
Due to all this, it’s debatable on whether or not Zappien is a joke band. It’s difficult to get over the vocals, but if listeners can somehow manage to look past that aspect of the album, there’s really nothing to be found anyway. What it all comes down to is that whether or not you’re laughing or cringing at this album, it’s thoroughly unpleasant either way.