On Beyond Zebra
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On Beyond Zebra



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There’s a kind of melancholy that runs deep through the best songs on Pittsburgh pop-rock group On Beyond Zebra’s latest release, Boxes Made for Shoes. It’s a melancholy that trumps the cool-breeze funk guitar and bass on “Envy” or the finger-snappin’ jazz-pop of “Chared,” and dominates the proceedings of songs such as “The Fellowship.” And it’s a melancholy that saves Boxes Made for Shoes from itself -- stringing together an often-disparate assemblage of stylistic ventures and binding them with a relaxed, and oddly relaxing, desperation.

Singer and songwriter Janet Pazzynski has been through a lot -- personal tragedy led to the shelving of On Beyond Zebra’s last disc, 1999’s Gone Beyond, and it was years before the band recovered. But when Pazzynski’s songs get close to that root sadness, a spiritual melancholy that borders on but shirks malaise, she produces her best songs. Pazzynski is at her best when she’s combining a Laurie Anderson-like delivery with a melodic sense that harkens to the better alternative pop of the ’80s -- Todd Rundgren-produced XTC, the later Siouxsie and the Banshees records, or the more worldly pop of the Belle Stars. There’s certainly plenty of songs that fit this sort of post-new wave pop aesthetic on Boxes Made for Shoes -- besides the above-mentioned, there’s the acoustic ska-pop of “Plastic” (which even has an ’80s lyrical focus), and catchy atmospheric pop such as guitarist Matt Sever’s vocal jaunt on “The Gift” (nothing to do with The Jam -- sorry). But a few of the other tracks that take deliberate strolls into other musical neighborhoods find themselves getting mugged: “Run Mum,” an attempt at a Tom Tom Club sunshine-rhythm, gets maced by the TV-references in its lyrics and a jerky plasticity to the rhythm, and the “Moondance” jump-jazz of “One Two Many Tomatoes” falls victim to its own reference points.

Boxes Made for Shoes shows On Beyond Zebra to be a band embroiled in a lifelong search for voice -- most bands would do well to take a lesson from OBZ’s open-mindedness, and undefined personal vision. But there are times to take comfort in the musical facets that a group is accomplished in, and when OBZ does that on Boxes Made for Shoes, they shine. (Justin Hopper)
- Pittsburgh City Paper

By day, Janet Pazzynski works for a communications company, climbing telephone poles and splicing cables. Scaling such heights and looking out across the city can give someone a unique perspective on the world and how we live it. That might also account for the wit that permeates her writing with On Beyond Zebra. The local quartet's sophomore CD, Boxes Made for Shoes, blends a heavy dose of acoustic guitars, catchy melodies, whimsical subject matter and Pazzynski's strong alto voice. But it's a wonder she is performing today, let alone playing lighthearted music, after a tragedy she suffered three years ago. Two weeks prior to the release of On Beyond Zebra's debut album, Pazzynski's husband was found dead, a suicide. Suddenly she felt little desire to promote her music once the CDs arrived. Thankfully, friends helped her through this trying time and today, a new lineup of OBZ has put her back on track with renewed energy. Drummer Ed Wiancko remains from the previous incarnation; bassist Barry Silverman and guitarist Matt Sever round things out. Their debut album featured several compositions by Pazzynski's son/OBZ co-founder Jake Ortego -- who co-wrote two songs here. On Boxes, though, Pazzynski had a hand in virtually all the songs, most of which were co-written with Sever. The mood borders on silly -- like the opening pop of "Run Mum" or the jazzy "One Too Many Tomatoes -- but even in those moments Pazzynski's strong voice and sharp sense of melody sustains attention. A few songs have a reflective feel that manages to keep the mood upbeat. The gentle "Friendly Spirits" talks about ghosts living in her house, although in this case, the visitors are a priest, Ho Chi Minh and Wonder Woman. On Beyond Zebra filters their zany perspective through a number of musical styles, throwing in jazz, folk and ska riffs and making it all work seamlessly.

- Pulp Pittsburgh

On Beyond Zebra Boxes Made for Shoes
by Costa Q

With a name like On Beyond Zebra, you’d expect
a band to have a quirky sense of humor, and
that’s evident on the full-length CD Boxes Made
for Shoes. Song topics like footwear fascination,
the ghost of Ho Chi Minh, and a mother who’s
submitted to the evil of white-trash TV all make an
appearance while accompanied by peppy acoustifolk-
pop. (That’s right…I just made up that word)
Though there are some serious moments on
Boxes Made for Shoes, the disc is at its best
when having fun and waxing nostalgic.
Vocals for the group are shared by Janet Pazzynski
and Matt Sever, though Pazzynski has the lion’s
share on this collection. Her vocal swagger sounds
like Chrissy Hynde and Deborah Harry, but instead
of being in your face, Pazzynski is carefree. The
guitar work is excellent on BMFS, with tasteful solos
and jazzy chord work, and the rhythm section never
plays second fiddle to the melodic lines. Harmony. vocals do exist on a few tracks, but are sorely missed on others.

The strongest songs on the album are the atmospheric
“Friendly Spirits” and the head-bobbin’
swing of “One Too Many Tomatoes”, complete with
the requisite drum solo. Other high points are
beach-friendly “Deep Sea” and “Envy”, which has
the feel of Naked-era Brownie Mary.
When the mood goes down however, the quality follows
suit. Serious tracks (“Chared”, “The
Fellowship”) seem to drag a bit, and the punk-inmessage-
but-message-only “Plastic” is ska gone
wrong, Phoebe’s unaired encore to “Smelly Cat” at
Central Perk. Finally, the lack of a solid hook in all
of the songs keep BMFS from being a great pop
record. There are more hits than misses, however,
and a fan of OBZ’s style will have just as much fun listening
to Boxes Made For Shoes as the band did
making it.
- Scene Local Pittsburgh

Review from DJ EEZY LOU one of Pittsburgh’s top club DJs

Very nice mix of tunes in the new "Boxes Made For Shoes" CD. The production is very tight and the overall sound is top notch professional quality, that of major label release. The appeal would fit the listening audience of WYEP style programming. I like the variety of styles ranging from 80's type to bluesy jump to jazz influenced ballads. The opening track "Run Mum," could easily fit almost any Mom and that makes this 80's style tune an easy song to relate to. keeping with the 80's theme, the closing track "Plastic" reminds one of what the Violent Femmes may have touched on. "The Gift" has a very friendly guitar bounce appeal. I would think those who listen to The Dave Matthews Band would find this track fitting in quite nicely. Overall for me, lyrics seem to fall in the background, but this collection of songs seem to bring the listener into each song message from "Friendly Spirits" to "The Fellowship" you find yourself in the settings. And after being deep into moods you can find yourself jumping up and Dancing to a swing style track ("One Two many Tomatoes") the guitar solo, while rather short, is really cool. This collection of songs has a lot of the right ingredients to make it in a genre for those who like the less commercial but a familiar sound.

- D J Easy Lou top Pittsburgh DJ

Yes folks, On Beyond Zebra (OBZ) rocks and rolls with the punches. If you are looking for attitude or angst forget about this band, their too busy playing uplifting licks and infectious songs that grab the listener by the ear drum. Thank you Ed Wiancko the heartbeat of the band and driving force. Matt Sever, the Zebra brain himself plays lead guitar effortlessly with rhythmic results weather swing, blues, rock or folk. My personal favorite is his flamingo licks in "Look To The Sky." This next Zebra does have a soul and she writes, sings and dances. Want more? She plays rhythm guitar and percussion. Janet Pazzynski gave birth to OBZ several years ago.
The band's latest recording: Boxes Made For Shoes, should be out soon and if their noon-time performance in Market Square is any indication, the Pittsburgh music scene has just become richer. From the upbeat opening "Yo Yo Ma" the fun began and never stopped till Janet finished pleading with the crowd, "I Want Your Car." The humor lies in the song's straight forwardness that the car is the only thing wanted. If there is one song that swings the highest, it has to be "One Too Many Tomatoes." I understand the recorded version includes a shouting male choir. One member jumped on stage to give us a taste.
Don't dance, don't worry, OBZ grabs brain matter with the slower torch song of "Envy" which declares "I want to be you." Janets amazing vocals and highe energy performance is what separates a performer from just a singer. Matt’s singing takes front stage in what will most likely be the CD's centerpiece song "Shoes." His other spotlight song The Gift also proves this band continues to go beyond any simple cataloging. Look to hear more On Beyond Zebra songs and catch them live in the wilds.

Lou Dan

- Lou Dan Reviews


With Flavor Chrystals-EP
Gone Beyond-CD
Boxes Made for Shoes-CD

OBZ has had three songs in top ten on Artist Launch.com an international site consecutively in three different genres, rock, alternative, & world.
Also being streamed on Radio Free Tunes.com &
Pittsburgh NeT Radio.com


Feeling a bit camera shy


Influences are everything from Frank Zappa to Joco Pastorius, The Beatles to Johnny A, Glen Miller to Rush, They Might be Giants to Brian Setzer.
OBZ is a truly original band that combines various genres in a very creative way. Exciting shows and great people are what this band is all about