Articles for the Month of June 2015

Make Way for Rude King!

Hail to the King, the Rude King! Texas natives Rude King has just released a 7-song EP entitled ‘Coming Back to You.’ This 9-piece ska ensemble has been dishing out tunes since 2003. Let’s check this thing out, shall we?

1. “Walk Away”- “Walk Away” is a highly danceable, horn-driven number powered by not 1, but two vocalists. I would not consider this containing any punk elements, but the song certainly intermingles traditional ska with rock and roll. In short, this song has it all, from the aforementioned horn section, to the low roar of the organ to the solo near the end. Great stuff! Grade: A-

2. “Busted Now”-Rude King dishes out more of the same horn-heavy vibes as the first tune complete with rocksteady beat. The vocal harmonization between Jon and Vicki is fantastic. In fact, I think Vicki belts things out a little more on this vs. “Walk Away”. I’m diggin’ it! Grade: A

3. “Coming Back to You”- Heavy on the percussion and subtle guitar riffs, Vicki and Jon can not only shine together, but separately as well. Another scorcher. Grade: A-

4. “Love You Crazy”- Love songs and the ska genre do not always go hand in hand, but this is probably the best example I have ever heard. Although I enjoyed Jon in the previous songs, I think it was a good call to leave him out of this one. Vicki carries this one to a “T” with sweet, low-tempo instrumentation and backing vocals. Grade: A

5. “Helping Hand”- “Helping Hand” picks up the tempo in this skank worthy tune. Straight up ska at its finest. Grade: A

6. “Home Wrecker”- Put your skankin’ shoes away for a minute for this swanky big band number. The vocal stylings in this one makes this feel fresh from the era when swing/big band were king, even though this song is brand new. Grade: A-

7. “Save It For Never”-With more aggressive vocals, “Save it For Never” is the “hardest” track on the album, while still maintaining an overall ska feel. Solid tune, but not my favorite: Grade: B+

After listening to a TON of ska albums over the years, I always appreciate a band that can incorporate different musical genres into their own potpourri of sound. What is equally as impressive are the bands that stick within one genre and perfect the hell out of it. Enter: Rude King. Within this relatively short collection of tunes, Rude King lays down 7 tunes of pure, upbeat ska. We are not talking about punk with horns or the latest reggae rock clone, but the highly danceable, put a smile on your face, getting sweaty while skanking for hours, kind of ska. There is an excellent blend here of organ with a horn-driven sound. I usually prefer bands with female singers, but the paring of Jon and Vicki is truly unique and dynamite! This band has been around for a long time and for good reason. So go out and give “Coming Back to You’ a listen. Rude King is King!

Overall Grade: A-


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What time is it?

What time is it?  Half Past Two!  HP2 of Orange County is set to release a 5-song EP entitled ‘Mastering Karate’ which is the third in their already fantastic catalog of tunes.  ‘Mastering Karate’ follows ‘It’s About Time’ (2009) and ‘Closet Polar Bears’ (2007).  Let’s check it out…


  1. “Mastering Karate”- Hi-yah!  With synthesizer at the ready, HP2 lays down a pretty sweet ska infused pop number.  Brittany and P!nk eat your hearts out, ska is where it’s at!     Grade: A


  1. “Artificial”-  What starts out with a church organ vibe, quickly turns into polished ska-punk.  Watch out for the well-placed guitar solo and massive horn-section attack.  Grade: A


  1. “Your Gaze is Gone”-  The organ and guitar combo creates the quirkiness reminiscent of early B-52’s.  Complete with saxophone solo, this is a straight up dance song.  Grade: A


  1. “Heather”-  The horn section is a little more subdued in this song, up until the end.  But at only 1:43, this relatively short song still packs a punch (and kick)!  Grade: A-


  1. “Not Enough”-Lead vocalist Tara has the singing chops to pull off both sweet songstress and punk princess in the same song.  “Not Enough” is the final round-house kick to the head, bringing a full force of ska-pop-punk.  Awesome song!  Grade:  A


Half Past Two has unleased their best stuff on this compact, 5-song album.  While “Heather” is a short song overall, there are no fillers here.  The overall sound is refreshing in the ska-punk genre, where raspy-voiced male vocalists rule the scene.  Tara’s vocal chops could certainly pull off any genre of music, but she fits in well with this well-oiled ska machine.  The rest of the band is on par as well, from the sporadic solo from the guitar to the blaring horn parts.  They even throw in a touch of synthesizer to boot!  Not shying away from the pop influences, Half Past Two will attract a much wider audience and may put ska back on the map (was in ever on the map?).  This Avril Lavigne, meets Save Ferris meets The Hippos (with just a splash of High School Musical) style will carry them far.  Awesome, simply awesome!


Overall Grade: A


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Are You Hungry For Some Ska?

Who’s in the mood for some Hobo Chili? The aforementioned band has just released their self-titled debut album! Hobo Chili is a 6-piece forming in 2012. They reside in Boston, MA, so if you are in the area, check them out. For now let’s listen to this album, shall we?
1.) “The Tribadour”-The momentum builds slowly, with classic ska guitar riffs and loud booming percussion. The horn section also makes their presence known as well. A pretty solid start. Grade: B

2.) “Rollin’ Bones”- Hobo Chili kicks up the aggressiveness a tad in “Rollin’ Bones.” Raspy voice: check; power chords; check; blaring horns check. Don’t miss the guitar solo on this tune! Grade: B+

3.) “Payin’ My Dues”- “Payin’ My Dues” is all over the place musically. While I dig the horn section, I have a hard time getting into this one completely. Sorry gents. Grade: B-

4.) “Entertaining Liars”- Hobo Chili tightens the screws up in this one. This is a nicely crafted tune, which breaks into a more reggae vibe toward the end. Grade: B

5.) “Move Your Feet”- It’s definitely time to pick it up! What “Move Your Feet” lacks in number of lyrics it makes up in a big way with its skankability and pure energy. Grade: A-

6.) “Circus Vamp”- I really like the darker feel that “Circus Vamp” provides. This along with pop-punk influences makes this an all- out enjoyable song. Grade: B+

7.) “No Conversation”- I pick up on a slight island vibe in “No Conversations” which quickly changes to a fast-paced ska blowout. The horns are in your face, as they should be. Grade: A-

8.) “All Ages”- Hobo Chili pulls the ol’ bait and switch by constantly switching between punk and upbeat traditional ska. There is even a little psychadelic in here too. This makes for a solid instrumental. Grade: B+

9.) “Firewater”- It’s time to slow things down a bit. The horn section and vocal harmonization gives this song an old timey sort of feel. Grade: B-

10.) “All Through the Night”- Let’s end things with a bang with one the best songs on the entire album. More of the horns and classic ska guitar riffs you love. Grade: A-

Let’s face it; it’s always exciting to review debut albums. The bands are excited to get their work out there after (oftentimes) working for several years honing their craft. I will usually let a few things slide on a band’s first album, like technical issues and craftsmanship of songs. Hey, I’m just glad they put their stuff out, even if it is not perfect. With all of that in mind, let’s focus on Hobo Chili. Technically, the recording of this album sounds really good. None of that “I recorded this in a bathroom” sound is found here. Musically speaking, while there are a few songs that I did not resonate with quite as much as the others (“Firewater” and “Payin’ My Dues) this is a pretty solid album. Hobo Chili does a nice job of blending rasp-filled punk vocals with a more danceable/upbeat ska sound. The songs are crafted nicely, with more radio-friendly tunes found in “Move Your Feet and “All Through the Night.” What stands out most to me is the tight horn section which is present on each song, as well as the often-times pounding of the drums. I also really enjoy the vocal harmonization found on “Firewater” and wish this weapon was used on more songs. Many bands try to bite off more than they can chew by incorporating too many different musical influences. This is not the case with Hobo Chili as they (mostly) stick to the ska sound which will make the purist pleased. So don’t wait, grab yourself a spoon, and have a heapin’ helpin’ of Hobo Chili!

Overall Grade: B

Check out their website and Facebook page!

Maybe Partying Will Help!

Have you heard? The A-Oks are set to release a new LP entitled “Maybe Partying Will Help!” For those unfamiliar with the A-Oks, their self- proclaimed “partycore” take on ska music is like no other. They hale from Denver Colorado and have been rocking the scene since 2008. Since that time, they have been hard at work; “Maybe Partying Will Help!” is their 4th release.

1. “Pick Your Battles”- “Maybe Partying Will Help!” starts with a scorching ska punk number. While the lyrics are a little disjointed at times, the blaring horns more than make up for that. Lace up your Chucks and hit the pit my friend! Grade: B+

2. “Beer Bong”-Raise your funnels for 2015’s frat boy anthem. Beer Bong is a catchy little number that you will stick inside your brain, like spilled beer on a dancefloor. After the hangover has worn off, you will still be singing this one on your drive to work Monday morning. Grade: A-

3. “New Beginnings”- “New beginnings is a fast and loose ska punk free for all. With quickly changing melodies, there is a lot going on here musically. Grade: B

4. “Dark and Disillusioned”- Hardcore meets danceable ska in this track. The horn section really sets the darker tone in this raw, aggressive song. Grade: B

5. “Exite-O-Max”- “Exite-O-Max will put a little pep in your step. This is probably one of the more poppy songs thus far. I dig it! Grade: A-

6. “Upside Down Girl”-I really enjoyed the vocals on this tune. If ever there was a radio-friendly song on this disc, this would be it. Grade: A-

7. “6669”- Highly danceable ska on this tune, created once again by the awesome horn section. .But don’t worry, with crunchy guitars, it still rocks as well. I love it! Grade: A

8. “Her Head on My Heart Strings”-Excellent ska punk with trading off of vocals. This is some great stuff right here! Grade: A

9. “Christmas in July”- This hill-billy ska song is a knee slappin’ good time. Once again, The A-Oks lay down a ‘can’t get this one out of my head’ sing-along tune. Nice work. Grade: B+

10. “Well, That Puts Things into Perspective”- While there is nothing new here, this is a solid pop/punk/ska number. Grade: B

11. “Thrash/Skank/Thrash”-Well, the name says it all. Even though the horns are loud and proud in this one, I’ve never been a big fan of thrash type songs. Sorry guys. Grade: C

12. “An Eight of June”-Mark really lets his singing chops shine on this number. Complete with backing vocals, this is a tad less aggressive than most of the other songs on the album. This is a change in pace from “ Thrash/Skank/Thrash” Grade: A-

13. “Drugs in My Face”-More bratty punk rock about snortin’ and smokin’ Grade: A-

14. “ 25 to Life”- The A-Oks finish strong, with this song which reminds me a lot what could be found in Less Than Jake’s set list, but with stronger horns. Grade: A-

Ska-punk fans rejoice! The A-Oks have managed to put out yet another solid effort in their growing catalog. Those of you that are fans of their previous work [‘Words Are Not For Eating (2010) and Funemployment Benefits (2012)] will find yourself right at home with this release. The overall feel of the album is that of a care-free beer-soaked frat party. In other words, the horns are blaring and the vocals are at times, crass and rowdy. It’s everything you would expect from this band. Although they stick mostly to their ‘partycore shtick’ there is still much variety throughout. The best example of this is found on “Christmas in July,” Personally, I enjoyed the songs where the reigns were tightened a little more, such as “Beer Bong,” “6669” and “An Eight of June” vs. the more ska run amok style found in “Pick Your Battles” and “Thrash/Skank/Trash.” All in all I really enjoyed this album, especially on repeat listens. If you have any interest in ska-punk, buying this is a no-brainer. Musically ‘Maybe Partying Will Help! Is a Mad Max in a sea of Driving Miss Daisies. Get ready for a hard, aggressive ride you will be glad you took !

Overall Grade: B+

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Another Fine Mess

Irish ska? That’s right kids; The Bionic Rats hail from Dublin, Ireland and have released a new full length entitled, ‘Another Fine Mess.” This follows ‘…Should Be Seen & Not Heard, Vol 1’ (2012) and ‘Return of the Bionic Rats (2009). Let’s have a listen…

1. “Red, Gold & Green”- I know these guys are from Ireland, but the instrumentation takes on a Middle Eastern feel at times. Otherwise, this is a straight-up reggae number complete with horns, dub and vocal harmonization. Great stuff! Grade: A-

2. “No Bottles, No Milk”- Starting out with a flute, “No Bottles, No Milk” is more of a light-hearted tune. It definitely has an Irish feel, but I’m not sure if it is reggae or ska. Regardless, this is a fun song! Grade: A-

3. “Bored to Tears”- This downhome brassy number will certainly not bore. I really dig the use of organ in this one as well as the jazzy trombone solo. Grade: B+

4. “Information Overload”- I am catching a slight 007 vibe in this number. This is by far the edgiest song thus far on the album. While staying true to the reggae vibe, this song rocks! Grade: A

5. “Hooked on 45’s”- The Bionic Rats mix some blues with traditional ska in this next number. Once again, the organ does a nice job at backing while the horns and vocals take center stage. It reminds me of Madness, with less of an 80’s feel. Grade: A

6. “Blame it on the Weather”- This song, much like “No Bottles, No Milk” is tough to categorize. Vocally it reminds me a little of the Kaiser Chiefs or Franz Ferdinand, but done in a sing-songy style. Grade: B

7. “Lazarus”- With just the right amount of dub, this is great example of big band mixed with traditional ska. The horns have that old-time feel and vocals have an echo-like quality. Grade: A-

8. “Another Fine Mess”- The organ and horn section make their collective presence known on this title track. Vocally, this is very Jamaican sounding mixed with Tim Armstrong of Rancid fame. Grade: A-

9. “Ah No, More War”- This intro sets the tone nicely for what is about to come…Grade: B

10. “Distant Drums”-”- Overall, due to its subject matter, this is a very dark and gloomy song. There are not a ton of lyrics, but it is a solid tune none the less. Grade: B

11. “Fly on the Wall”- Another whimsical song is found in “Fly on the Wall” with its buzzing and ‘shoo’ ‘shoos.’ It’s not my favorite song, but I also can’t seem to get it out of my head either. Grade: B

12. “Keyboard Warriors”- It’s time to bust out the acoustic guitar for this toned-down version of a pub song. Grade: B+

13. “Dubbed on 45’s”- While I like the original version just a tad more, this is still a great ditty. Grade: A-

14. “You Never Called”- This is a slower reggae number, bringing a little more of the dub action. Way to finish strong! Grade: B+

There are a whole heap of bands out there that blend different musical styles. This is nothing new, but in most of these cases, I can pick out the different musical styles and genres from which they borrow from. This is not the case with ‘Another Fine Mess.’ Several of the songs have a definite ska or reggae feel, while others on the album I have a difficult time placing which genre they fit into exactly. I obviously have an affinity for all aspects of the ska and reggae sounds; however, it is refreshing to hear something different for a change. Overall, the vocals are pleasant and not laden with the stereotypical, loud raucous, Irish pub sound. The instrumentation is a great match, making use of a fully stocked horn section as well as keyboard. Another strength of this album is that each song sounds distinctly different from the rest. I really enjoy this album and you will too if you are looking for something just a tad different from the usual. It’s time to get “messy” with the Bionic Rats!

Overall Grade: A-

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