I’ve been known to read too much into even the most basic of song lyrics, but when Paul McGuire of Karate High School explains in the engrossing opening track of the band’s latest album Invaders:

They’re gonna make all your friends look just like them,
And if you haven’t noticed yet,
We’re surrounded by zombies everywhere

I can’t help but hear echoes of Jack Johnson’s “Rodeo Clowns” in this poppy, dance track, eye-catchingly titled “Zombies Everywhere” as McGuire calls out conformity and mainstream obliviousness. But don’t worry, he’s no pretentious hypocrite. Only a few tracks later, in the equally catchy and frenetic “Punk Rock Uniform” he calls out a 14-year old version of himself, declaring that

Not trying to be like everybody else, well that’s just like being like everybody else.

It’s refreshing to hear a pop/punk/indie band admit their own mainstream expressions. In a “bio” written by McGuire, he explains that “The Beatles already wrote every great song many years before I was born.” and that “The only thing I can do is put as much honesty and creativity into the songs that I can, and hope that they connect with you.” It’s an admirable endeavor and his honesty is appreciated. What Karate High School accomplishes with this record may not connect with everyone, or even with everyone in their target audience but at least they’re prepared for any and all reactions.

As for me, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Invaders. It’s not an especially original album but with the band acknowledging that from the get-go it’s easy to dive into the poppy hooks and driving guitar riffs along with the electronic keyboard sounds that show up on various tracks. “Zombies Everywhere,” “Punk Rock Uniform,” and “Fell In Love With A Robot” are the most memorable songs on the album, effortlessly mixing pop with truly expressive subtext. It’s equally easy to listen to the first as a simple song about zombies or as a deeper expression and condemnation of people’s lack of individuality. And either way you hear it, the song is impressive.

And while not every song on the album packs as much of a punch (“Under the Microscope” is a bit repetitive), there’s enough solid music here for any music afficionado to appreciate. And the quality of these tracks is especially impressive when you take into consideration that the band recorded these songs independently in McGuire’s mother’s house, without the aid of a producer. Now that’s indie.

Zach’s Rating: B
Perfect For: Anyone who wants a little punk-pop with a slight twist
Stay Away if: You want a band to attempt to wear their individuality on their shirt-sleeve

To purchase Invaders, visit Amazon

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