Articles for the Month of September 2017

Long Live ¡Viva Mayhem!

After being a ska fan for 20 years, it still surprises me when there are bands that I have not yet discovered.  I am excited to check out the first release from Ithaca New York’s ¡Viva Mayhem! entitled ‘Fool on Fire.’  Let’s do this…

 

  1. “Better Strangers”- ¡Viva Mayhem!  starts things out with a highly danceable tune with the standout  being the sultry vocals of Miss Emily Hoyt.  This is a solid opener, however the overall tone seemed a bit flat.  I think it is the combination of the saxophones overpowering the brass and lack of excitement in the vocals.     Grade B+

 

  1. “Poltergeist”- This next track has a lot going on, including the much appreciated ode to The Ghostbusters. The horns here are excellent and pair nicely with the B-52’s style of vocal switching (Fred Schneider would be proud).  This is the ultimate throwback song.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Fool on Fire”- “Fool on Fire” rocks out more so than the previous two tracks. I really dig the gritty western feel to the intro as well as Emily’s stellar vocal range here. Thumbs up!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Find a Bigger Flame”- One of the strongest tunes on this album is not actually a ska song. Based in jazz, I pick up a dose of funk as well.  To get the full experience, one needs to listen to this one in a dark, smoke-filled lounge.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Heads in the Sand”- ¡Viva Mayhem!  finishes strong by adding pleasant male vocals to the mix.  While great alone, the vocals are enhanced with Emily singling backup.   This is another one you will have to lace up your skankin’ shoes for.  Great stuff!  Grade: A

 

I love the anticipation of discovering new bands.  Will said band suck or be heavily favored in your listening rotation?  ¡Viva Mayhem! certainly did not disappoint; ‘Fool on Fire’ was enjoyable from start to finish.  Overall, this album did not have much polish on it has other studio releases.  While this may hinder the sound somewhat, I do think this is a strength, as much of this studio trickery is overdone.  I feel that this album is pretty darn close to what ¡Viva Mayhem! sounds like live, which is the way it should be.  Their sound reminds me of some of the east coast bands from the 90’s (whose names currently escape me) or even Rude King.  Female-fronted bands tend to be my favorite, and once again, this band shows up, with Emily killing it on the mic.  Emily certainly has one of the best sounding voices in the biz, but as heard on “Better Strangers” lacks some emotion at times.  Over the course of 5 tracks, these guys and gals really showcase different styles within the ska genre.  They even pull off something a little different on “ Find a Bigger Flame.”  Whoever said ska was dead has certainly not listened to this band.  ¡Viva ska!, ¡Viva Mayhem!

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

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Part VIII-What Do You Know About Ska Punk?, Vol. 1

71. Mad Dog & The 20/20s-“In My Head”- Even though the vocalist found in Madeline Christensen is indistinguishable from many of the other female leads in ska, the vocal quality is top notch.  I do love me some female-fronted ska!  Awesome song lady and gents!  Grade: A

72. Chewed Up-“Advice”-Well, I like the guitars, otherwise the screaming (once again) is not my thing. Grade: F

73.Craiggae Shark-“Astro Zombies”- Changing pace from the last song, Craiggae Shark unleashes a traditional number with sweet female backing vocals.  The song felt short to me; I could have listened to more of this.  Grade: B+

74. Atrocity Solution-“Banshee”- In my opinion, this is an awesome song, musically, which has been ruined by the vocals.  Not feeling this one either.  Grade: D

75. The Copacetics-“Six Outta Seven”- Playing more of a traditional brand of ska, the Copacetics represent with their raspy vocals and swanky sound.  This song is a great representation of their other work, so if you dig this (as I do!) check out their albums.  Grade: B+

76. Beat Brigade-“401 Kill”- Beat Brigade’s sound reminds me a lot of the Toastes.  This makes sense as they have been around just as long.  Big ups for staying the course!  Ska forever!  Grade: B+

77. Primeval Soup”-We Won’t Take It”- Punk Rock! Add some rap-style lyrics and constantly changing guitar parts and you have this unique entry.  It’s okay.  Grade: C

78. General Tso’s Fury-“Spoiler Alert”-GTF features an excellent horn section and sometimes jumps into the realm of pop-punk. This is a fun little ditty, with a swanky part near the end (featuring a muted trumpet!) Grade: A-

79. Matamoska-“Mario Bros Before Hoes”- Oh man- I love, love, love danceable ska!  There is almost an industrial feel to this song as well.  Very inventive, however, I’m not a big fan of the death metal vocals.  Grade: B+

80. MONKEY-“Jerk”- MONKEY is another band on this compilation that has weathered the storm in this genre. “Jerk” is a great song, but not my favorite off their latest.  Grade: A

 

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A Warm Welcome to ‘Stork and the Babymakers’

New to Ska-boom.com is Stork and the Babymakers.  Hailing from Ontario, Canada, this group of gents has recently released a self-titled, 4-song EP.  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “Stick It Out For A While”-Let’s kick things off with a straight up horn rock venture, with smooth vocals and blaring horns. To say this song is ska/punk would be a misstep. If Jimmy Eat World had a horn section, this is what it might sound like.  An enjoyable song for sure.   Grade: B+

 

  1. “Runaway Blues”-Switching gears, The Babymakers roll out more of a traditional number. The organ here is excellent and the backing vocals are a nice touch. I think Keegan’s voice is better suited for this style of song over those with more of a rock element.  A great song in the vein of The Prizefighters.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Stand Strong Like A Rock”- The guys mix things up once again with a sweet reggae jam with overlapping vocals. I think that this band should highly consider making Aoife (the guest vocalist) a permanent member of the band.  Her powerful pipes fit in nicely with the otherwise mellowness of the rest of the band.  Awesome!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Daily Valentines”-Wrapping things up, is a nice horn rock number. Vocally this one reminds me the lead singer from Behind Deadlines.  Musically this one is solid; however the muted horn part is a little out of place.  Grade: B

 

As most music fans do, I have my list of favorite bands.  One of the reasons that I started ska-boom.com, however, is to discover that new kid on the ska block.  Look no further than Stork and the Babymakers.  While they have released only 4 tracks, I always applaud bands for getting their stuff out there, rather than waiting until they have enough material for a full length.    After an enjoyable once-through, I can see the band going in two directions.  The first being a smattering of styles in which you hear on this album.  I understand not wanting to put oneself into one musical box, but in my opinion, there are not a lot of bands that can pull this one off.  The Mad Caddies and the earlier works of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies come to mind.   Option two would be to pick one subgenre and run with it.  The two songs that I enjoyed the most are the slower numbers, more in the style of reggae and traditional ska.  The other songs were a good listen, just not as much as the aforementioned ones.  I would pick option two, if it were me. Overall, this is a solid collection that I think you will enjoy. I wish Stork and the Babymakers the best of luck in their musical future and can’t wait to catch up with them down the road.  If you are in the mood for a musical smorgasbord then check these guys out!

 

Overall grade: B+/A-

 

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Part VII-What Do You Know About Ska Punk? Vol. 1

61. Origin Story-“I Forgot My Mustache Comb”- Yep, there is a ska guitar in here, but vocally this is all over the place. There is traditional singing, more punchy vocals and even screaming, which I’m afraid does not work very well.  Grade: D

62. Black Star Dub Collective-“Vampire (Roots Dubplate)”- “Vampire” is your traditional reggae song featuring killer female back-up vocals.  Good stuff.  Grade: B+

63. Zero 2 Panic-“Hey Thanks”- Another band that reminds me vocally of The Insyderz. Zero 2 Panic incorporates more of a straight up rock and roll sound (vs. punk) to this featured song.  Grade: C+

64. Rundown Kreeps-“Seem to Care”-I don’t normally like 3-piece bands in the ska genre, but I dig these guys. I really like the lead singer’s voice.  I can’t  vouch for their other tunes, but this one there was some clunkiness/awkwardness with the lyrics, but overall, this is a solid tune.  Grade: B

65. Sketchie-“For Better or Worse”- I’m not sure if it is the quality of the recording, this is a rather raw form of punk, with just a sprinkle of ska. Even though it sound s like it’s being played in a garage, this song just works.  Grade: B

66. Stereotype the Masses-“Where’s the Booch”- Altough there are some punk elements found here, the vocals are surprisingly pleasing. The lone saxophone sets the tone of this wacky Fishbone-eaque tune.  Grade: B

67. The Big News-“Quit My Job Today”- A bombastic job done by the horn section makes this an excellent tune.  The vocals sound familiar but I can’t put my finger on it.  Anyway, I like these guys!  Grade: A-

68. Something To Do-“Tina Fey II”- Despite this being a novelty song, this one will get you skankin’ for sure. If you are in Wisconsin, check out these guys.  They put on one helluva show!  Grade: A

69. One Last Meal-“Tadang Panaong”- How can you  go wrong with a ska punk instrumental?  Great song guys!  Grade: A-

70. Three Grams-“Hallelujah”-I normally hate songs like this. The vocal quality here is better than most bands of the hardcore variety.  I will give some kudos for that, but downgrade only because I don’t like hardcore.  Grade: C

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Welcome to ‘Camp Slushtone’

Orange County natives, Half Past Two have recently dropped a new EP entitled ‘Camp Slushtone.’  I’m so excited for this one so let’s just get started…

  1. “Proximity”- HP2 brings the upbeat ska punk as only they know how. Taking all of the stereotypical elements in the genre that I’ve heard a million times before, with just a pinch of 80’s pop (think Debbie Gibson) make this first tune a breath of fresh air.   Grade: A

 

  1. “So Cal Summer”- Slap on some sun screen and your shades and get ready to skank the summer away. If Rivers Cuomo of Weezer fame was a woman in a ska band, this what it would sound like.  I really dig the amazing vocal harmonization and subtle organ in the background. Grade: A-

 

  1. “Choosing Sides”- I love, love, love this song! Feeling more like a synth-rock song, Tara Hahn really lets her vocal range shine through.  Aside from the mellow sax solo, the horns play more of a supportive role.  Great stuff!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Smile Like You Mean It”- This is your typical West Coast third wave ditty. Tara, once again carries this tune. Musically this one is just ok for me, but the vocal quality is top notch once again.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Bitter”-For some reason, this song is missing something. The vocals in the other songs are crystal clear, where  as in this song, they sound  a little muddled.  Also at 1:24, it is too short in my humble opinion.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “At Least Be Decent”-This song comes out with guns blazing as the horn section plays at a frenzied pace. This song has everything you’d want from a ska punk tune: great vocals, danceability, a low roaring organ and a horn solo.  #nailedit.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Gone Tomorrow”-I know it fits with the theme of the album, but I don’t really like campfire songs all that much. They always seemed kind of gimmicky to me.  Also the vocalist on this one fell flat with me as well.  Grade: C

 

Whenever I write a review I try my best to be unbiased.  This one was difficult as Half Past Two is one of my favorite bands currently.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of their albums from start to finish.  As you can see from my grades, ‘Camp Slushtone’ is more of the same west coast ska punk that put HP2 on the map in the first place.  Other than the novelty song found in “Gone Tomorrow” each song is fantastic.  Although HP2 has dialed in their sound, they do an excellent job at making each song sound different.  Long-time readers know that I have a sore spot for female leads.  While this is true, Tara stands on the shoulders of many other leading ladies.  The rest of the band is also fantastic; the horns are always well heard and the organ is always a nice touch.  Ska punk bands are a dime a dozen, but there are few bands that rock out while creating a fun, fun listening experience at the same time.  If you have never heard of this band, you are definitely missing out.  Download ‘Camp Slushtone today (what are you waiting for?)

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

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