Articles for the Month of March 2016

The Slack is Back Jack!

After 25 years and 15(really 15?) albums, The Slackers have released a self-titled album.  Certainly a mainstay in the ska community for over two decades, this band needs no introduction.  Let’s check out this latest offering…

 

  1. “The Boss”- The Slacker’s start the album true to form, heavy on both horns and keys. Complete with laser blasts, this one is sure to please.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “By the Time I Get to Sleep”- Traditional ska with a dash of big band! Not sure whether to skank or to dip your dancin’ partner?  Me neither, but what I do know is that this is a great number.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Go Go Go!”- This one’s a slow “skanker of sorts” with the classic sax wail of Mr. Hillyard. Just when you think the song is done, the lone organ leads the way with the guitar and drums not far behind.  Dual vocalists and steady drum beat march this one out to its final note.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Working Overtime”- Ah yes the all too familiar lament of the every working man. Although Vic hands off the mic to Glen Pine in this fantastic number, his work on the organ is not overlooked.   Dave also makes his presence known here.  Thrown in a pinch of dub action and you’ve got yourself one catchy tune!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Spin I’m In”- “Spin I’m In” is more bare bones musically as compared to the previous tracts. The limited use of horns (up until the very end) lets listener appreciate the truly unique vocal stylings of Vic.  I’m not always a huge fan of slower numbers, but this one’s a gem!  Grade: A

 

  1. “I Want to Be Your Girl”- The Rarebreed records website sites The Beatles and Beach Boys as a few influences incorporated into the musical fabric of this record. If ever there was a Beetles sounding song, this would be the one.  As a whole the song is gritty in nature which contrasts perfectly with the Fab Four inspired vocal harmonization.  Awesome!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Pockets of a Rich Man”-Bending a little more towards rock and roll, “Pockets of a Rich Man” has The Rolling Stones written all over it. Vic even sounds more like Jagger in this one more than any other tune to date.  While this is certainly a change of pace in style, a great song is a great song no matter what.  Thumbs up.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Run Til We Can’t Outrun”-Glen wrestles the mic back in this next track. I can’t place the exact style from which this song reminds me, but is definitely has an early rock feel to it.  Doo-wop?  Motown?  Zager and Evans?   I remain perplexed, yet thoroughly entertained at the same time.  Fantastic song.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Things I Can’t Forget”-“Things I Can’t Forget” begins as a slower, trippy song, featuring a portion of itself being played in reverse. Studio affects and changing rhythms beginning at the halfway point change this seemingly traditional tune into a drug induced, smoke- hazed acid trip of a song.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Truth Comes Knocking”- This is your standard Slackers ska magic. The most striking part of this song is the trading off of vocals between Glen and Vic was well as the captivating organ solo.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Chewing on a Face”-This song is amazing! There is an overall edginess created by the monotone nature of Vic’s voice and the blaring horns.  The female backing vocals are the icing on the cake.  This ditty sounds like it is straight out of a police drama from the early 80’s.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Spaceman 3104”- The Slackers have taken a song which would be too long for my liking if done by anyone else and created a showstopper in this already epic album.  “Spaceman 3104” is an appropriate title as it does create a celestial feeling while listening.  Groovy!    Grade: A

 

  1. “The Boss (Alt. Mix)” [Bonus Track] – In general I like the idea of alternative versions of songs. While they are not meant to replace the original, they are as the name suggests, another version.  While I enjoy the original version slightly more, this is a fun variation.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Chewing on a Dub” [Bonus Track]- Well the original is already a scorcher, so I’m not sure how you can improve on it.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Christine Keeler” [Bonus Track]- This is an amazing instrumental that should have been on the original album, however, I’m sure they only reason it did not make the final cut is because of time constraints on an LP.  This number showcases each horn as well as the organ.  Way to go out with a bang.  Grade: A

 

 

It is difficult to image any band, especially one in a genre that has never been favored by the mainstream to last for 25 years.  Never the less, The Slackers keep touring and cranking out fantastic songs year after year.  While I was always familiar with this band during my early skanking days, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I got to see them live, that I began to truly appreciate their sound.  With Vic’s one of a kind voice, the Slacker’s style has remained fairly consistent over the course of their discography.   Until now.  The Slacker’s spruce things up by injecting sounds we haven’t heard since the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Many bands have made a foray into other styles much to their fans dismay or delight which often times seems gimmicky.  Rest assured, there is no gimmick here, just a collection of finely crafted tunes from the masters themselves.  Overall, this is a fantastic recording that sounds as if the band is playing all together vs. each instrument being recorded separately.  Each song is unique in its own right, while keeping constant with the traditional ska meets trippy goodness vibe.  Taking command as lead micman and ivory tickler, Vic allows the rest the band to shine throughout as well.  Although Vic’s voice has grown on me over the years, I still appreciate the energy that Glen brings here as well. The bonus tracks were not needed but greatly appreciated.   Of course buying this album is a no brainer for the longtime Slackers fan, this will appeal to the masses as well.  For those middle agers that want to take a nostalgic trip(pun intended) through their high school  years, this album is for you.  I know it is early in the year, but I predict this to slug it out as one of the best ska albums of 2016.  The Slack is back jack!

 

Grade: A

 

 

 

Check them out:

Facebook

Web

Soundcloud

Dude…Don’t Make it Weird

 

The Virginia-based septet ‘Thirteen Towers’ have released their latest LP “Dude…Don’t Make it Weird!”  This follows two other albums which have been released since the band first began in 2007.  In fact, this is the first album to feature the bands “new” lead singer, James Tucker.  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “Intro”- The boys warm things up with this quick little instrumental. Grade: A-

 

  1. “By Any Other Name”- At first listen I thought this was going to be another instrumental. There are some good things going on here, from punk rock guitar to the rich horns, but as a whole, this song did not seem to transition very well, between rhythm changes.  Grade: B-

 

  1. “Take One for the Team”- Pick it up! This next ditty will put some pep in your step.  With its frantic horn parts and trading off of vocals, you will feel like you are at a beer-soaked frat party.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Facebook Whore”-Things escalate quickly when the lone muted trumpet is abruptly interrupted by vocals straight out of any metal band. I personally think that this could have been a straight up metal song but the combination of hard rocking vocals and guitar with the “I’ve heard this ska guitar riff a million times” is so over the top at times that it just works.  Nice job guys.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Inviting Disaster”- After catching myself singing along, this is the most well-rounded, radio-friendly song thus far. Catchy to say the least, this one’s a winner.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “You’re not Wrong Robert, You’re Just an Asshole”-Straight up punk rock, accented nicely with blaring horns is found in this next song. I dig the guitar solo at the 2:00 mark as well as the way it slows down for a bit near the end.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Without You”- My initial response to this song was not overly positive. At first the gruffer vocals did not seem to mesh with the laid back acoustic guitar.  Upon further listening, this one really began to grow on me.  The highlights for me are the backing vocals and the mellow trumpet.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Find a Way”- Thirteen Towers changes pace with “Find a Way,” channeling ska, metal and lightning-fast punk. Good stuff.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Backwash”- While I appreciate the subject matter, this song is just ok. Musically it seems a little “all over the place.”  Grade: C

 

  1. “Shake it Off”- On the surface “Shake it Off” it another ska punk song. If you listen to the lyrics, it urges you to stay positive, and keep your chin up when negativity clouds your life.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Fuck your Selfie”- I don’t enjoy songs that reference pop culture, as these references can become extremely dated. This stated, the selfie and social media are here to stay (for better or worse).   Overall this is a solid song with amazing backing horns.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Meal for Free”- In the same fashion as “Inviting Disaster” this song has excellent craftsmanship.  It just flows well from start to finish.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Part of Me”- “Part of Me” starts with a slow build and then rocks out at near the 1:30 mark. There is one more slower tempo part, but the rest of the song is in full on rockin’ mode.  Way to finish strong.  Grade: B+

 

 

When you have listened to as much ska as I have, it is difficult not to compare bands to one another.  Right out of the gate I thought these guys sound like ‘4 Aspirin Morning’ from Wisconsin. There were even some glimpses of ‘The Insyderz’ as well.  What each of these bands have in common is the ska-punk framework with gruffer vocals laid on top.    Technically speaking, the quality of the recording, is not superb, but I mention this not as a critique, but rather to be complete.  Vocally speaking, the gruffer nature is certainly the dominating force across most of the songs, however, there are a few instances, where this is toned down a bit.  Songs like “Inviting Disaster” and “Meal for Free” has James Tucker using more of a traditional singing voice, which I tend to resonate with more.  On the instrumentation side, Thirteen Towers dishes out what you would expect from a ska punk band; hard hitting guitars mixed with the third-wave guitar riffs.  Punchy horns are found at every turn.  While there is a dash of metal thrown in at times, there is little straying from the ska –punk sound.  As a whole “Dude…Don’t Make it Weird!” is an enjoyable ride with very few bumps along the way.  Check it  out!

 

Overall Grade: B

 

 

Check them out!

Web

Facebook

So what did you think? Share it my friend!

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
Visit Us