Kung Fu Records have not really been known in the past for championing what is affectionately known as ‘geek rock’ but with their latest release there is a slight change.
Being brought up in the 1980s and fed on a diet of ‘Back To The Future’, Nintendo and ‘Star Wars’ provides the lyrical inspirations for Ozma’s ‘Rock And Roll Part Three’, while musically they could be none more Weezer with a touch of Rentals (which may or may not have something to do with some of their songs being produced by ex members of both those bands). Let’s be blunt here – I could never take Ozma seriously when I first heard them. To put it in perspective, they sound as much like Weezer (with added Casio) as Muse do Radiohead. But one day for no apparent reason, something clicked… the songs. In short, there are tunes here of near genius.
‘Rocks’ and ‘In Search Of 1988’ are bouncy, gleefully cheesy pop songs which will leave you grinning like a loon. Ozma know how to write catchy fast songs which are apparent here but they also have the quirky edge of ‘Domino Effect’ and ‘Apple Trees’, the album’s already classic opening double. There are great lyrics to be found everywhere, such as on CD-ROM video ‘Gameover’ (lines from ‘Back To The Future’ and about finding “extra lives”) and “I’d give me heart if I had one for giving” on ‘If Only I Had A Heart’. But where they really excel are on the slower songs like ‘Baseball’, which has a brilliantly-touching instrumental guitar intro before building into a mini epic, the HUGE ‘Battlescars’ (“there’s battlescars on all my guitars”) and the one which the ‘Star Wars’ fans love, the album’s defining moment, ‘Natalie Portman’ (“there’s nothing, there’s nothing, there’s nothing I can do”).
Sure enough it tails off in places. ‘Last Dance’ is a great finish to the album but it’s basically the Fountains Of Wayne’s ‘Radiation Vibe’ in disguise. ‘Shootingstars’ and ‘The Ups And Downs’ seem a little throwaway on the first few listens but could turn out to be growers. The most important thing is that if you love guitar pop, you will love Ozma. If you love the likes of Weezer, Ash and The Get Up Kids, you will REALLY love Ozma. Whether or not ‘Rock And Roll Part Three’ has the staying-power of ‘Pinkerton’ remains to be seen but for now, considering this is their first ‘proper’ album, it’s near perfect.