Articles for the Month of November 2016

Take a Ride on the ‘Ferris Wheel!”

I love it when bands that I have never heard of reach out to me.  The latest band to do just that is Ferris Wheel from Belarus.  After forming in 2015, they have already released a full-length album entitled ‘Choice.’  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. -Заўсёды наперад! (Always forward!)-Ferris Wheel hits the ground running with a full surge of aggressive punk with horns sound. Grade: A-

 

  1. Маладыя гады (Young years)- Featuring gang vocals, ‘Young Years’ has a dirty street punk feel. The horn lines here are lightning-speed and heart-pounding.  Get ready to take a nap after this musical workout.  Great tune!  Grade: A

 

  1. Выбар (Choice)-I really wish I spoke the native tongue of Ferris Wheel, to understand the vocal intro to this song. None the less, this is more of the same great stuff heard on the first two tracks.  Don’t miss the killer trumpet solo near the halfway point.  Grade: A-

 

  1. Поезд в лето (The Train in the Summer)-As far as I can tell this song features a different vocalist, which is a great way to shake things up. Although there is excellent horn and guitar work in this tune, the two don’t always mesh, in my opinion.  Otherwise, this is a great song.  Grade: B+

 

  1. Тараканы (Cockroaches)- Compared to the previous songs, this one has a relatively stripped down feeling. The horns are more of an accent than a main-player.  This job is done to perfection.  Grade: A-

 

  1. Радикальная любовь (Radical love)- While this song is done in the same vain as the previous ones, this one grows a little tired with me. Maybe it is the absence of horns.  I do like the usage of double kick-pedal, however. Grade: B

 

  1. Цирк (Circus)- This is one of the most unique ska songs I have ever heard. Starting out relatively slow with the stereotypical “circus melody” done with the trumpet.  The mood quickly darkens with a full assault to the senses.  I really enjoyed how during the harder, more aggressive parts, the trumpet kept a smooth quality, like your typical jazz number.  Wow!  Grade: A

 

  1. Будем Жить! (Will Live!)- “Will Live!” is a slight change in direction for the band. Although it is ska punk at its core, this one is more upbeat.  It reminds me of Reel Big Fish and Suburban Legends.  A great closing track.  Grade: A-

 

I will start with a disclaimer.  If you do not listening to music in another language, than this album will not be your thing.  According to one of the band members, the lyrics on this album are sung in either Russian or Belarusian.  If you are a fan of ska punk or ska core than I urge you to give it a listen.  Ferris Wheel brings a fervent energy that is present in each and every track.  From the punk style guitars to the blaring horns, this band fits right at home with their American counterparts.  For a more aggressive style, I even enjoyed the quality of the leader singer’s voice.  The only thing that may be slightly off-putting (although it may grow on you, as it did with me) is the fluidity of the lyrics.  When  songs are done in English, the lyrics either rhyme or flow together in a different way.   The lyrics here did not do this as well, but I attribute this to me not speaking either Russian or Belarusian.  I suspect that if you only spoke one of these languages, that songs done in English would sound a bit different as well.  Musically speaking there is a lot of variety within only 8 tracks as illustrated by the phenomenal trumpet work and the sheer uniqueness of “Circus.”   Ferris Wheel does not sound like anyone I’ve heard, but fans of the ska core genre will dig their style.  Easy comparisons include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Chilled Monkey Brains, although there is still quite a bit of differences between these three.  Probably a better comparison is Eskalation from Germany.  Please do yourself a favor, and open up your mind.  I hope you dig this young talent as much as I did.

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

Check them out

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Looking for “Something to Do?”

One of the longest running (and few remaining) ska bands from Wisconsin, Something to Do has recently released a new LP entitled ‘Not Making a Sound.’  Let’s check this bad boy out, shall we…

 

  1. “Not Making a Sound”- The title track dominates with a straight up rock n’roll (with horns) feel, which differs from the countless ska punk outfits out there. “Not Making a Sound” has an almost 80’s feel to me, much like if the Cars did a ska number (minus the synthesizer of course).  Great tune! Grade A-

 

  1. “Don’t Take That Shit From Anyone”- The song named after the mantra that everyone should repeat to themselves before going to work each day. This ditty is the complete package with excellent horns and backing vocals. -Grade: A

 

  1. “Tina Fey II”- While this song works really well live as a novelty song of sorts, do not be fooled. “Tina Fey II” packs a punch here as well.  Get off your butt; get off your feet, all while paying tribute to the greatest woman to grace the small screen (apparently).  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Done With You & Me”-The twangy guitar in this next track reminded me a lot of “Radiation Song” from the Aquabats. All in all this is a solid track, but it did not hold my attention like the previous ones.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Point of No Return”- Rocking harder than anything heard thus far, this is another great number. The horns are in the forefront, paired with the switching off of vocals.  Great stuff! Grade: A-

 

  1. “The Lemons in Lemonade”- I was wondering when third wave ska guitar was going to show up. This takes me back to the ska that I cut my teeth on back in 1997/1998.  I love it!  Grade: A

 

  1. “You Got Me Feelin’ Emo, Knock it Off”- Something To Do, pulls out all the stops in this next ditty. It is difficult to create a hard-hitting song without going to the punk side of things, but they pull it off.  The horn section steals the show in this one.   Grade: A

 

  1. “Tina Fey III”- Life is not complete with just one song about Tina Fey. I’m diggin’ this “college radio” with horns tune.  Put your arm around your honey and hold your lighters high (does anyone still do that?)  Don’t miss the killer guitar solo.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “No No (No No)”- Nate’s falsetto and the background hand clapping give “No No (No No)” a definite pop feel. I have a feeling this one is going to grow on me.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “I Don’t Like You”- This song is alright; definitely not one of my favorites, but no dud by any stretch. Grade: B

 

  1. “Do Not Have All the Fun”- Punk rock! I’ve heard a ton of songs like this over the years, but here it is new and exciting again.    Grade: A-

 

  1. “Let it Rain on You (But Not On Me)”- A slower song that I just don’t dig as much as the others. Grade: B

 

 

I’ve always imagined that if you lived in Hawaii, you probably don’t appreciate how truly awesome it is until you’ve been somewhere else.  This is how I feel about Something to Do.  Although I have been a long time ska fan, I never paid much attention to the band that is so close geographically.  It wasn’t until I got to see these dudes live (headlining at UWSP and opening for The English Beat in Madison) that put these guys on my radar. This band is high energy and has perfected their signature sound.  Although they are certainly a ska band (which is a very broad genre, I know), their sound is more complex. The guitar work is reminiscent of 90’s alternative, but nothing too hard; much in the vain of early REM.  There is even at times a touch of 80’s splashed throughout as well.  As mentioned earlier, ‘Not Making a Sound’ does not have an overly punky feel which is refreshing.  Once more, the use of pop references (I’m talking to you Tina) as well as the overall “poppy” feel makes this album enjoyable to all audiences, not just us hardcore ska-fans.  Their last album ‘Music For Fine Dining’ is excellent, and this one is right up there as well.  Each song here is enjoyable, showing great variety within the genre. This is a must have for long-time followers of the band, but as mentioned will be exciting for those that currently listen to straight up rock.  So if you’re looking for “something to do” downloading ‘Not Making a Sound’ is a mere few clicks away!

 

Overall Grade: B+/A-

 

 

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‘Keep It Together’ With the Bumpin Uglies

The last time that the Bumpin Uglies released an album, I praised them for having one of the best band names ever.  This time around, I was blown away by the artwork of their latest release ‘Keep It Together.’  Released in September, the Bumpin Uglies will sure to keep fans happy with this collection of 12 new songs.  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “All In”-The Bumpin Uglies start things off in this rather chill tune, in the vein of their stoner reggae-rock style. Slight dub elements make this song a real winner.   Grade: B+

 

  1. “Snowflake”- While I don’t understand the lyrics, this is a great tune. Packing more of a punch than the first tune, “Snowflake” turns the rock element up to 11! Grade: A-

 

  1. “Sorry I’m Not Sorry”- I really dig this tune! Start with a ska guitar line; add the beat and some smooth vocals and you have yourself one groovy song.  “Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is proof that you don’t need a horn section to sound great.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Stop the Fall”- I’ve heard plenty of reggae rock and even more punk ska but reggae punk? This song is like nothing I’ve heard before, mixing the aggressiveness of punk and the laid back nature of reggae.  After laying the groundwork mentioned above, The Bumpin Uglies add finishing touches like, vocal harmonies and vocal echoing.    Grade: A

 

  1. “End”- With great attention to detail, this gritty reggae number features a horn section. It just adds that extra something that sets this song apart from the previous songs on this album.  I also really enjoyed how “End” eventually transitioned to a straight up rock song.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Hipster Douchebag”- This is a truly unique song as the band pulls influences from several decades. “Hipster Douchebag starts with a rockabilly guitar, reminding me 50’s rock and roll.  The horn lines put off a 70’s easy listening vibe, juxtaposed with the 90’s third wave sound as well.  Great song!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Urination Citation”-Pick it up people; it’s time for more ska! While the chorus fell a little flat with me, this is still a solid, hard-hitting number.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Place Your Bets”- Switching between ska and hard rock, this next song falls in line with the others on this album. In other words, there is nothing unique here, just more of the same good stuff you’ve enjoyed during the first 7 tracks.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Load In Load Out”-They waited until the ninth track, but there is finally a song smoking weed and drinking. Wake up stoners from your haze-filled basement and crank this one up!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Rules Be Damned”- Due to the stripped-down nature of this tune, it really gives a chance for not only the guitar, but also the smooth vocals to shine. More or less a relaxed song, there is a little rocking out near the end.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Keep Moving”- Woah! What a change in direction, for what is mostly a punk number.  Throwing their own touches into the mix The Bumpin Uglies pull this style off as well.  What a nice change of pace.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “All That I Need”- The ever cliché “last song acoustic number.” Sorry guys, this one does nothing for me.  Grade: C-

 

 

I must first mention how impressive it is to two full length albums only a year apart.  It is always disappointing to wait several years between albums (yeah, I talking to you Mustard Plug).  While I’m not innately drawn to the stoner rock genre as much as say traditional ska or even ska punk, The Bumpin Uglies are the best in the business.  They have been cranking out albums steadily since 2011, they have their style pretty well dialed in.  Although they stay true to their “original recipe” there is quite a bit of variation amongst these songs.  “All Thant I Need” could have been left off of the album, but other than this, every other song is pure joy.  Switching between ska and reggae rock, The Bumpin Uglies pull off these variations with ease.  They even draw inspiration from others in the gem that is “Hipster Doucebag.”  To pick one standout would be impossible, as there are many on this album.  With 12 songs, this will give long-time fans, and new fans alike, hours of re-playability.  So in short the Bumpin Uglies ‘keep it together’ and knock another one out of the park.

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

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