Review Summary: The Italians' solid debut received a facelift...
I always had a love hate relationship with album reissues/remasters, because they depend on who decides to re-release them. If the label is the only party involved, everything can easily fail by letting the wrong team work on this kind of projects. Sonic perspectives often differ, but there’s patience and interest needed too. Unfortunately, a lot of times nobody cares about that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when the artists are behind the desk as well, you can at least have the assurance you ultimately receive an honest product no matter how much budget they had or who the producer was. The Italian progressive-leaning stoner/psychedelic rock band, Zippo have offered a facelift to their long time out of print debut LP, Ode to Maximum
. Mos Generator’s Tony Reed took the original tapes and gave them a clearer finishing touch with adjusted volumes. Considering how flooded this market became in the past decade, I look at this as an effort from a different era, when there weren’t ten thousand groups doing the same thing and having more success than their influences.
Overall, Ode to Maximum
owes a lot to ‘90s stoner bands (there is even a scorching cover of Slo Burn’s ‘July’ included as a bonus cut) and blends rock’n’roll with hard & punkier edges, jam sessions and odd detours, which have become trademarks on sophomore records. The tunes are more straightforward and usually go for all out power. ‘Forgotten Season’, ‘Kid in the Desert’ and ‘Tukay’s Fury’ all bite at the neck with raging riffs, as well as low, dirty, fuzz-drenched bass lines and powerful vocals. The grooves are being shoved in your face, however, you get more dynamics than dozens of similar acts (remember this was a debut album too). ‘S.N.A.P.R.S.T.’ falls into the same category, yet it breaks the noisy segments with an interesting lounge break halfway, reminiscing Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Thank You Boys’.
Moving to the more experimental side of Ode to Maximum
, the two ‘Night Jam’ tracks are lovely, warm instrumental entries amid the heavy numbers. The former relies on chill chords, whereas the latter features some riffs as well. It still keeps the dreamy vibe and makes for a nice listen. Meanwhile, the two epics, ‘Crazy Forest’ & ‘The Elephant March’ reveal everything Zippo was all about at that point in time. The hypnotic build-up in ‘Crazy Forest’ is followed by moody verses with deep bass lines and eerie guitar licks. The sharp, twangy tone in the distorted guitars give that distinct touch you can also hear in Colour Haze’s music for example. Most bands choose solely a full blown, murky drive, but mixing these sounds is actually more appealing. The guys slowly grow the pile driving rhythms to a punchy finale, keeping it simple and powerful. On the other hand, ‘The Elephant March’ boasts a steadier progression with some mechanical-like leads. The vocals augment the tune, offering a taste of the diversity we consistently received later from them. This blend of melodic and hard riffage define this song an early favorite in the band’s catalogue (also a live favorite, potently closing their sets).
Overall, I’m glad Zippo decided to offer Ode to Maximum
a re-release, because it displays their potential and delivers some really cool tracks that few people might have listened to beforehand. While they matured considerably in the 12 years since this LP originally saw the light of day, this is a solid debut that is definitely worth listening to. The band remains one of Italy’s underrated underground acts, so I hope people will find this a gateway to their real tight discography.