Zoobombs “The Sweet Passion”

by Shawn Despres

Special To The Japan Times

Although their 2009 “Nightfriend of Zoobombs” album featured a dozen of Zoobombs’ “greatest hits” completely rearranged and rerecorded, “The Sweet Passion” is the quartet’s first proper studio full-length since 2006’s “B*B*B.” The Tokyo rock stalwarts recorded “The Sweet Passion” in Oakland, California, with producer Greg Ashley (from the underground psych-rock band Gris Gris) and in Japan.

“The Sweet Passion” is a far trippier affair than the eclectic, poppy “*B*B*B.” And while these new tracks may take more plays to hook listeners, the extra effort has a solid payoff as Zoobombs have crafted a great sonic journey full of lava lamp- and black-light-worthy anthems.

“The Sweet Passion” opens with the disc’s lead single, “Plasticity.” The restrained cut is filled with taut rhythms that threaten to explode into one of the noisy, free-wheeling jams that often dominate Zoobombs’ renowned live performances. Awesome spacey guitar riffs, organ and tambourine make up “Big Picture,” with Don Matsuo’s 60s-inspired lyrics of “We gotta see, gotta see, everybody must be free” adding even more of a retro edge to the proceedings.

Unsurprisingly, things get funky on the lo-fi “We’re Gonna Get Down.” Matsuo spits out rapid-fire raps and then turns out a big, classic rock-styled distorted guitar solo as Matta noodles on her keyboard. Horns are introduced as the dynamic number fades out, ending things on a soulful note. Zoobombs try their hand at the blues on the slow-burning “Bored Kid” before Matsuo channels his inner-Hendrix on an instrumental, guitar-heavy, acid-rock-influenced version of “Amazing Grace.” Driven by Matta’s keyboard and Matsuo’s rambling vocals, the sprawling, hypnotic “African Beat Drive” melds jazz and psychedelic sounds and has a cool Doors feel to it.

Zoobombs love exploring different musical directions so it’s unlikely their next recording will follow the same path as “The Sweet Passion.” But for now, find yourself a big comfy seat, put on a pair of over-sized headphones and enjoy.

Zoobombs play Fever in Tokyo on June 8 (7 p.m.; ¥2,500 in advance; [03] 6304-7899). For more information, visit www.thezoobombs.com.