Articles for the Month of June 2014

Invader Ska!

 

 

I am very excited to be doing a review of Max and Invader’s latest effort ‘Runnin’ on Fumes.’  Known at the time as simply The Invaders, this was the first ska band I had ever seen live.  The year was 1996 and the Invaders could pack a local coffee house with their raw ska energy (rest in peace Mission Coffee House-Stevens Point, WI).  15 plus years later and they are still tearin’ it up.

As a whole, this album is a great representation of upbeat 2-tone style ska; a must for any fan of this subgenre.  If you are more into ska-punk, this is not the album for you.  New listeners will enjoy discovering this little gem of an album.  Those that are familiar with the earlier albums and live shows  from this band, may be in for a shock.  This is not the Invaders of the mid to late 90’s.  Let’s check it out!

  1. Runnin’ on Fumes- The title track actually sounds like the old Invaders sound.  This one makes me want to get up off my seat.  The horns sound great in this traditional number.  I would love to hear this one live!   Grade: A
  2. Miss You- This is a slower ditty.  Although Max’s voice has a bit of an echo, this is a pretty solid song none the less.  The female vocals are a nice touch, which really add to the song’s appeal.  Grade: B
  3. Try to See-  Oooh, harmonica!  This is song appears on their ‘All That’s Normal Turns to Chaos’ album, but this version is a much slower jam than the original.  Typically I hate when bands re-record earlier material, especially when they slow the tempo down. That being stated, it works (in a major way) for this song.  As previously mentioned, I have been a fan of these guys (and now gal) for a while, and the original version was never my favorite.   I dig this tune!  Grade: B+
  4. Something Else- I can’t place this song-I can’t tell whether it has a Caribbean or a New Orleans type feel.  Overall the horns are really prominent and are what carry the song.  It also features a nice sax solo around the 1:40 mark and a cowbell.  You gotta love a song with a cowbell.  Grade: B
  5. Dancing in the Fallout- Another ditty which features a harmonica.  Although I like some of the elements this song (i.e. the Jamaican sounding gentleman featured throughout),  this song just did not work for me.  Maybe it was Max’s attempt at falsetto singing.  Sorry Max!  Speeding up the tempo towards the end doesn’t help much either. Grade: C
  6. Girl Like You-  This one starts out a little bit more rockin’ and then falls into line with the previous songs.  A dig the horns in this one.  Is that a fiddle that I hear?  I have a feeling that this one will grow on me the more I listen to it.  Grade: B-
  7. A Birthday Song-Yeah more rock guitar!  A party song-literally.  I wasn’t sure about this one the first time I listened to it, but it’s growing on me.  Grade:B+
  8. Jump in the Line-Cover tunes can be risky.  They can be a raging success or an epic failure.  Also, it’s hard not to compare them to the originals and other groups that have covered the same song.  This is such an iconic song that it will hard to improve on.  Max and his crew do  a nice job at adding a slight variation to the original as well as to the cover done by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies ( Baseketball Soundtrack). While this song is kind of a novelty number, it probably works better live than on an album.  Good song none the less.  Grade: B
  9. Paper Tigers-    I really like the harmonization of this one.  Otherwise this song is just alright.  Grade: C
  10. Vesper- Pick it up!  An Upbeat tempo with subtle violin in the background.  I never thought there was room for fiddle music in ska.  For nostalgia sake, I really appreciate the James Bond reference from the song “Spy’s Demise” from their  ‘Double Live’ disc (as a side note, this still remains as one of the best ska albums ever. EVER!) Grade: B
  11. Not Lonely-This song makes me feel like I’m in a dark alley somewhere.  I like the grittiness of this song.  It’s weird to here Max sing a song like this, but I dig it anyway.  Grade: B+
  12. Elizabeth- Nice!  This is another re-recording from the ‘All That’s Normal Turns to Chaos’ album.  I never really liked this song in the past and always found myself skipping over it.  Not anymore.  Instead of slowing things down as in the case of “Try to See” they have picked things up just a tad.  The violin and organ are really prominent in this one.  Although this is still a slower song in general, I like it a lot.  Grade: A-
  13. Feels So Good- When I heard this song, my initial reaction was “I’ve heard this song before; is this from some 80’s TV show.”  After some research I found that this is a cover from Chuck Mangione.  The original is fantastic, if you are into oldies or nostalgia.  Max does an amazing job with this one.  Although this is an instrumental it is one of my favorites on the disc. Grade: A

Summary:  Overall, this is not a bad record.  In fact it is a pretty good record, but as previously mentioned, this is not the Invaders you grew up with (if you did like me).  Get over yourself.  Things have to change.  Although I prefer the songs I grew up with and heard so many times live, I like this album.  The violin is a nice touch and is something we have not seen in the genre before.  Many bands out there have really excellent sounding cd’s but then they are horrible live.  This is not the case with the Invaders.  The stage is where they shine.  I’m sure that the good songs on this disc are amazing live and I can’t wait to catch a show again.  I urge you to do the same.   Overall Grade: B

Are You Ready to Get Dirty?

Well, it is finally here.  For me and the rest of you Mad Caddies fans out there, the release of their new disc, “Dirty Rice” could not have come any sooner.  It has been 7 years since they released any new material, so this album has been long overdue.  Over the years, what has impressed me the most is the wide array of influences that the Mad Caddies pull from, including punk, ska, reggae, Dixieland jazz, and even pirate music.  Furthermore, this eclectic blend never sounds cheap or gimmicky, but rather keeps the listener guessing on how their sound will morph on the next album.

As previously mentioned, if you have been a Mad Caddies fan for a while, you know that their sound has definitely changed over the years.  If you are expecting “Dirty Rice” to be another “Quality Soft Core” or “Duck and Cover,” then you will be sorely disappointed.  As a whole, this album is in line most with their previous release, “Keep it Going.”  Let’s see how this one stacks up:

  1. Brand New Scar- I must admit.  The first time I heard this song, I was not impressed.  It seemed like the kind of song that you would put at the end of an album to close things out.  After listening to this one a few more times, I kind of dig it; like a nice drinking song.  It seems to pick up where “Keep it Going” left off.  Grade: B
  2. Love Myself- Very few do the punk ska as well as the Mad Caddies.  This follows nicely after the slower first song.  Rock guitars with the melodic voice of Chuck Roberston.  What can be better?  Nice job boys!  Grade: B+
  3. Down and Out- This is a slower one, but the horns are really prominent on this one(which I like!)  There is also a pretty sweet piano solo around the 2 minute mark.  Grade: B
  4. Shoot Out the Lights- Another slower ditty, but this one has more of an ‘island feel to it.’  I like it.  Grade: A
  5. Dangerous- After slowing things down in the last two numbers, “Dangerous” is a little bit more raw and in your face.  I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either.  Grade: B
  6. Bring it Down- More punk rock!  Is that a touch of Dixieland?  Not one of my favorite tracks on the disc, but not bad.  Grade B-
  7. Shot in the Dark-  “Shot in the Dark” is straight outta New Orleans.  Nice use of horns, piano and organs.  Love this tune!  Grade: A
  8. Little Town- This one has a little ‘island’ mixed with Mardi Gras sound as well.  Sounds like I should be on a cruise listening to this one.  Grade: A
  9. Airplane-Probably the closest thing to a ‘ska’ song on the whole album.  Just a great song.  Probably my favorite on the whole album.  Grade: A
  10. Callie’s Song- Oh wait, an even more ska sounding song.   Not too punky, but rather, a nice jam.  Grade: B+
  11. Back to the Bed- A nice rockin’ soung.  It is alright  Grade: B-
  12. Drinking the Night Away- In typical fashion, “Drinking the Night Away” is an acoustic number to end the album. Nothing special here, but great sound to finish the drink you started while listening to “Brand New Scar” Grade: B

Overall:  When I first previewed this album, I had my doubts.  After waiting 7 years, I kind of expected some resemble to an older Caddies album.  I should have known better, as all of their albums sound completely different.  Overall, this is a pretty solid effort with great use of organs and horns.  Chuck’s vocals are always pretty great as well.  What I enjoyed most about this record (as with all of their albums) is that all of their songs sound different from one another.  I fore see enjoying this album the more I listen to it, but as if this review, I give it a solid B+.

Their Wurst Album?

Have you heard of Beebs and Her Money Makers?  Up until a few months ago, I must admit, I had not.  I had the opportunity to see them open up for Reel Big Fish earlier this year, and became an instant fan. I’m always on the look-out for ‘new’ bands and Beebs certainly did not disappoint.

 

As a follow up to last year’s “No Sleep Tonight” Beebs and Her Money Makers have just released their newest, entitled “Wurst Album Ever.”  Here is a breakdown:

 

1.)    Out the Door- If you are familiar with Beebs’ other albums, this song is aligned with the swanky, sultry vocals they are known for, along with punchy horns to start out the song.  A great way to start an album.  Also a great choice to make a video of.    Grade: A

2.)    Beautiful Gloomy- Starting slow but then picking up where the last song left off, this is also a great song to have as your ‘summer jam.’   Grade: B+/A-

3.)    Running Away- I’m a little on the fence with this song.  The high pitched shrills featured in this song might get pretty old on repeat listening, however I totally dig the sax and trombone solos at about the halfway mark.  Grade: B

4.)    Truth- With horns blaring from the get-go, you can not want to get off your feet and start dancing.  Great song; love it!  Grade A

5.)    Learn- I really like the swankiness of the horns in this song, but as a whole, in the words of Randy Jackson from America Idol fame, “it was just alright, with me dawg.”  Grade B-

6.)    Waterfalls- If Beebs is trying to reach a high school/college age demo, as I’ve seen at most ska shows, I doubt that most of their listeners have ever heard this song before.  This is a cover song, originally performed by the pop sensations? TLC.  I’ve always hated this song and have never been a fan of TLC either.  Sorry Beebs!  It was pretty awesome hearing this song live in concert, as a novelty.  Novelty songs, more often than not, fall short of being awesome.     Grade: D

7.)    Crazy- This is a great little ditty featuring the great Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish.  Starting with a traditional ska guitar and upbeat horns, try not tapping your foot to this one!  My only beef with this song is that is what featured on one of their previous albums.  I typically hate when bands do this, however I can see them wanting to do this if a) the first version was of poor quality or b) it is one of your better songs that you want to showcase to a larger fan-base that was around during the first album.  After listening to version of the “How to Start a Dance Party…” EP, the recording on this album is of much higher quality.  Nice job on this one guys!  Grade: A

8.)    Jammin- I’m not completely sold on this one.  The horns are great; however the vocals/lyrics are kind of lame.  Nothing more to say on this one.  Grade: C

9.)    Dialect on Preset- Funk it up!  Great vocals on this and funk guitar.  What’s not to like? Grade: B

10.)Miss Kaptain Kangaroo- As with the song ‘Crazy,’ ‘Miss Kaptain Kangaroo was also on a previous BAHMM album (“Welcome to Barter Town”).  This one leaves me scratching my head a little bit.  It is if they took two completely different sounding songs and spliced them together.  I do appreciate the harder guitars in the beginning but it does feature the same high-pitched shrills like “Running Away.”  Grade: B-

11.)Death to Ego- Beebs really belts it out in this soulful number.  Great horns, great voice, nuff said.  Grade: A-

12.)A Night’s Dream- While many bands will slow things down for their last song, not BAHMM!  These song steam-rolls ahead, in tune with the rest of the album.  Grade: A

 

Summary- I really love this album as a whole.  As with any album, there are songs that I enjoy more than others, but as a whole this CD flows well from song to song.  The production is great, but at no point does in feel ‘overproduced.’  Also the horns are easily heard on every song (One of my biggest pet peeves is when the horns are barely heard over the other instruments).  Nice job BAHMM, this is an album to be proud of!     Overall Grade: A-

So what did you think? Share it my friend!

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