After being a ska fan for 20 years, it still surprises me when there are bands that I have not yet discovered. I am excited to check out the first release from Ithaca New York’s ¡Viva Mayhem! entitled ‘Fool on Fire.’ Let’s do this…
- “Better Strangers”- ¡Viva Mayhem! starts things out with a highly danceable tune with the standout being the sultry vocals of Miss Emily Hoyt. This is a solid opener, however the overall tone seemed a bit flat. I think it is the combination of the saxophones overpowering the brass and lack of excitement in the vocals. Grade B+
- “Poltergeist”- This next track has a lot going on, including the much appreciated ode to The Ghostbusters. The horns here are excellent and pair nicely with the B-52’s style of vocal switching (Fred Schneider would be proud). This is the ultimate throwback song. Grade: B+
- “Fool on Fire”- “Fool on Fire” rocks out more so than the previous two tracks. I really dig the gritty western feel to the intro as well as Emily’s stellar vocal range here. Thumbs up! Grade: A-
- “Find a Bigger Flame”- One of the strongest tunes on this album is not actually a ska song. Based in jazz, I pick up a dose of funk as well. To get the full experience, one needs to listen to this one in a dark, smoke-filled lounge. Grade: A
- “Heads in the Sand”- ¡Viva Mayhem! finishes strong by adding pleasant male vocals to the mix. While great alone, the vocals are enhanced with Emily singling backup. This is another one you will have to lace up your skankin’ shoes for. Great stuff! Grade: A
I love the anticipation of discovering new bands. Will said band suck or be heavily favored in your listening rotation? ¡Viva Mayhem! certainly did not disappoint; ‘Fool on Fire’ was enjoyable from start to finish. Overall, this album did not have much polish on it has other studio releases. While this may hinder the sound somewhat, I do think this is a strength, as much of this studio trickery is overdone. I feel that this album is pretty darn close to what ¡Viva Mayhem! sounds like live, which is the way it should be. Their sound reminds me of some of the east coast bands from the 90’s (whose names currently escape me) or even Rude King. Female-fronted bands tend to be my favorite, and once again, this band shows up, with Emily killing it on the mic. Emily certainly has one of the best sounding voices in the biz, but as heard on “Better Strangers” lacks some emotion at times. Over the course of 5 tracks, these guys and gals really showcase different styles within the ska genre. They even pull off something a little different on “ Find a Bigger Flame.” Whoever said ska was dead has certainly not listened to this band. ¡Viva ska!, ¡Viva Mayhem!
Overall Grade: A-
Check them out!