Articles for the Month of September 2016

Name Your Favorite Norwegian Ska Band

Name your top 10 favorite Norwegian ska bands…GO!  If you had a difficult time coming up with even one, you are not alone.  Even though I have heard of many bands over the years, The Phantoms from Oslo are new to me.  A big thank you goes out to these guys for reaching out to me and sharing their tunes, from across the Atlantic.  Without further ado I bring you their latest release, ‘Their Legendary 4th.”

  1. “The Juice”-Taking the lead, all that is heard initially, is the horn section, building up tension. Once the rest of the instruments join in get ready for a ska thrill-ride.  Although there are some background vocals and some “toasting” over the instrumentation, this is more or less an instrumental.  What an amazing start!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Rebel Blood”- The second song of the album showcases more of the vocal stylings of lead man “King Scruffy.” This moniker is appropriate as the singing is a little rough around the edges.  This easily becomes a non- issue once the blaring horns and the low roar of the organ enter the scene.  Let’s not forget about the killer guitar parts as well.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Moonshine & Water”- “Moonshine & Water” slows things down a bit. While this is still a fine song, I thing King Scuffy’s vocals fit better with more aggressive numbers.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Robbers & Cops”- What starts out with kind of an eerie vibe, turns into one heck of a traditional number which packs a punch. Having the “gang vocals” adds that extra something.  The longer I listen the more I dig this song.  Great stuff! Grade: A

 

  1. “The Saboteur”- I think the vocals are even lower in this song. This fact along with the creepy organ set up a spine-tingling feel.  If Rammstein did a ska song, it might sound like this.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Apache”- Heavy on the organ, “Apache” with its limited vocals is more or less an instrumental. Appropriately named, this song is the perfect ode to Spaghetti Westerns. Grade: A

 

  1. “I’m Spartacus”- Starting with a fierce battle cry, the rest of this song is rather laid back. A classical traditional number with excellent guitar solos and horn work.  The Phantoms keep piling on the hits!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Gunboat Nemesis”- On the surface this is just another traditional instrumental. To the seasoned listener, there is much more going on here.  There is kind of a big band vibe, mixed with spooky undertones created by the organ.  To round things off, the “broadcast vocals” remind me a lot of those in “International Jet Set” from the Specials.  Awesome tune.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Kim Il Sung”- Another scorcher in the style of “toasting “ above the instrumentals. Grade: A-
  2. “Lost Highway”- This sounds like a drinking song to  me, with The Phantoms closing out the bar.  While not my favorite song on the album, I think this song would translate well into a music video.    Grade: B

 

  1. “Thunderbirds are Go!”- While done in traditional Phantoms style, formula pays off in this perfect song. An excellent finish to an excellent album. Grade: A

 

 

To be perfectly honest, when the second began to play, I was pretty sure I was going to hate this album.  I could not get past the raspy, seemingly abrasive vocals of King Scruffy.  How was I going to make it through 11 songs?    To be fair I decided to hang in there.  After a while, because I enjoyed the instrumentation so much, the vocals, as mentioned earlier, became a non-issue.  It wasn’t until I was several songs in that I actually really enjoyed the singing on this album, as it is truly unique.  As a whole this is a fantastic recording, keeping the perfect balance between making all of the instruments stand out, yet not giving it that “overproduced” feel.  While I cannot place my finger on it, there is a definite European sound (see Amsterdam Faya All-stars and the Dualers) and The Phantoms are no exception.  Maybe it is the big brassy presence which is a standout on ‘Their Legendary 4th.’  In fact, every instrument here is on par with some of the best traditional ska I have heard, from the guitar solos to the roar of the organ.  I’m not usually a fan of the ‘toasting’ style of songs, which makes up a decent chunk of songs here, but this shtick never gets old.  Each song it unique, yet just as enjoyable as the one before.  With my lowest grade being a B, every song here is amazing and it is truly a feat to create an album that can be played from start to finish without skipping around.  I am so glad that I discovered The Phantoms, as they are now up there with some of my favorites.  I predict this to be one of the best albums of 2016 as it is truly “legendary!”

Overall Grade: A

 

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