Articles for the Month of January 2017

PART I (What Do You Know About Ska Punk? Vol. 1)

If you have not heard yet, there is a new ska compilation that features 135 songs.  What Do You Know About Ska Punk? Vol.1 is an ambitious undertaking.  We know there is quantity; now let’s see if there is quality as well. [I have decided to break up this review into 10 song increments with a full album review at the end]

 

  1. Bolshy-“Ignorance is Strength”- What starts out as a “slow burner” transitions into a brass chaos, in this highly danceable tune. The lead singer, known only as Molly according to the band’s Facebook page is both powerful and easy on the ears.  Great song!  Grade: B+

 

  1. Backyard Superheroes-“Tangerine Drive”- The Backyard Superheroes deliver what you’d expect from a ska punk song; bratty vocals, killer horns and crunchy guitars. The excellent guitar solos made up for me not being totally in love with the vocals.  Grade: B

 

  1. Beng Beng Coctail-“Fucking Rudeboy”- This is bare-bones ska song, with only a drum, a bass and an acoustic guitar. I really like the work done here on the acoustic, giving this tune some Latin flavor.  The vocals fell flat with me-it’s like everyone in the band got stoned before they started singing.  Grade: C-

 

  1. High School Football Heroes-“Life’s Hard (No One Gets Out Alive)”-Being more of a fan of pop punk rather than straight up punk, I really dig HSFH’s sound. The horn section is blaring and in your face, and the vocals are not abrasive like their straight up punk brethren.  I can’t wait to hear more from these guys!  Grade: A-

 

  1. Tef London-“Still Standing”- A female-fronted ska outfit with a big-band sound. What’s not to love?  I would classify this as more rock with horns, rather than punk, but this is an entertaining song none the less.  Grade: B

 

  1. Chilled Monkey Brains-“Note to Self”-If you’ve never heard of Chilled Monkey Brains before, I strongly urge you to check out their latest album. While I am not a huge fan of screaming and I prefer the more melodic voice of the backing vocalist (vs. the lead vocalist in this tune), these guys are probably the most inventive band in the ska scene right now.  Blending ska and thrash metal, Chilled Monkey Brains are truly unique.  Grade: B+

 

  1. 1592-“Hooligans”- Lead by brothers Eric and Jeremy Abbey, 1592 is more of a traditional ska/rocksteady group. Without using punk elements, this band can still pack a punch with their gritty take on the genre.  “Hooligan’’ is an up-tempo instrumental that will instantly turn you into a fan.  Grade: A

 

  1. Behind Deadlines-“Laid Off”-Pop-meets –punk- meets- ska. After just reviewing this entire album, this is the ska-punk anthem of 2016.  Fantastic song; fantastic album, from start to finish.  I love this band!  Grade: A+

 

  1. Bumpin Uglies-”Urination Citation”-Bumpin Uglies play the best version of what I have dubbed as “stoner rock” I have ever heard. This ditty features the classic ska guitar riff with gruffer style vocals.  I really enjoy Bumpin Uglies, but to be honest this is not my favorite song of theirs.  Check out their other stuff!  Grade: B

 

  1. Flying Raccoon Suit-“Proud”- I normally enjoy bands that feature both male and female lead vocals, but this was a little subpar for me.  The male lead was annoying to say the least.  Nothing else about the rest of the song really stood out either.  It’s difficult to judge a band from one song, so I would love to hear more from Flying Raccoon Suit.   Grade: B-

Saving (One of the) Best For Last!

Hailing from Philadelphia, PA Behind Deadlines has released a follow up to last year’s EP entitled ‘Status Quo.’  Let’s crank it up…

 

  1. “Biochemistry”-Status Quo opens up with the wonderfully crafted pop punk number. Although the horn section was a little muddled compared to the much louder guitar sounds, Behind Deadlines starts out on the right foot. Although subtle, the piano at the end is a nice touch.  Great song!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Sick Of It All”- Sounding vaguely familiar to “Bouncing Off the Walls” from Sugurcult, “Sick OF It All” starts out as a laid-back tune, and transitions into more of a rocking number. The horns here are front and center, both during the solos and while jamming with the rest of the band.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Laid Off”- Everything about “Laid Off” is catchy as hell. Sure it’s the classic ska guitar riff you’ve heard 1000 times, but everything here works perfectly.  I know I’m only three tracks in, but I’m predicting this to be the best ska song of 2016!  Grade: A+

 

  1. “Hey Dear Friend”- When Behind Deadlines sets the bar high from the get-go, it’s difficult to make the other songs stand out. Once again, I really enjoyed this tune featuring an excellent guitar solo.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Making Change”- Put on your checkered Vans, because this Is a skankin’ song if ever there was one. Once again, staying with the pop-punk-ska formula has paid off for this group of talented gents.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Six Months”- Instead of a big brass (or woodwind) attack, Behind Deadlines starts things off with a lone saxophone, before being joined by the rest of the band. Along with “Laid Off” this tune could be found on more mainstream media and do extremely well.  More “tender” than the previous tunes, “Six Months” sounds like emo with horns to me.  Love it!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Sink or Swim”- With ever-changing melodies, there is a lot going on this this stereotypical punk ska number. This is a fresh approach to the often overdone 90’s third wave sound.  Nice job!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Optimism”- With a slightly awkward transition at the: 29 mark, this song rocks harder than the previous seven. This stated, this band pays attention to details like vocal harmonization and excellent trombone solos.  Wow!   Grade: A

 

  1. “Worthless”- Taking cues from Reel Big Fish, and doing a little trash-talking of their own, Behind Deadlines drop a fun little party tune with “Worthless.” Grade: B+

 

  1. “Escape From Philadelphia”- Although this contains the same great vocals, and instrumentation as the rest of the album, for some reason, I had to warm up to this one. Grade: A-
  2. “Drinking to Brazil”- A ska album wouldn’t be complete without a drinking song. Although I’m not a big fan of this kind of song, this is done extremely well, with its Irish pub feel. A nice closer.  Grade: B+

 

 

Pop-punk had it’s heyday in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and many listened.  Behind Deadlines actually took notes.  In my last review of 2015’s ‘Before Summer Ends’ EP, I compared these guys to several bands from this era (such as Bowling For Soup, Good Charlotte, etc.).  This comparison quickly rushed to the front of my mind after listening to only a few minutes of ‘Status Quo.’  Musically, there are similarities, for sure, but the most obvious sticking point is the quality of the lead singer’s (Zach Brooks) voice.  This is not meant as a dig at all.  When everyone else in the punk world is trying to sound the loudest, gruffest, most aggressive, a band that leans more toward the poppier side of things is a definite breath of fresh air.   Every song here is crafted to near perfection with not a slouch in the bunch.  Some bands are better song-writers than others and I would rank these guys near the top.  While they do not feel an excessive need to swear (I don’t think I heard any cursing on this album), in addition, most songs are written to where I think they would have appeal to those other than avid ska fans.  It is a rare treat be able to listen to an entire album all the way through and enjoy it as much as I did Status Quo.  While the ‘senior citizens of ska’ Reel Big Fish, and Less Than Jake show no signs of hanging it up anytime soon, Behind Deadlines are could fill (and possibly overfill) their shoes.  After reviewing albums all year, I can honestly say that ‘Status Quo’ is one of my favorites.  What are you waiting for?  Check these guys out!!

 

 

Overall Grade: A

 

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