After having several releases under their belt, Survey Says! unleashes their latest offering, “Observations of the Human Condition.” Starting in 2008, this 5-piece New Jersey combo keeps the masses skanking with their blend of pop-punk and ska. Although they have been in existence for quite some time, I must admit, they have not been on my radar…until now. Let’s rock this!
1. “Marble Tower” (intro) – While working as not only an intro to the second song, “Marble Tower works as a stand-alone instrumental as well. Starting off in typical Blink 182 fashion, Survey Says! interjects with blaring horns, letting the first time-listener know what’s in store. Grade: A-
2. “Ode to My Willpower (Or Lack Thereof)”-Starting out as a catching pop-punk tune, classic ska guitar and backup horn section come on to the scene around the half-way mark. This tune could be a radio hit. Love it! Grade: A
3. “I Aim to Misbehave”-With slightly more aggression, the vocal quality is never lost and melds well with the backup vocals. While giving the saxophonist a time to shine at the 2:40, this song packs a major punch, with a big brassy sound at the finish.
4. “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” (feat. David McWane)-As previously noted, this song features David McWane of Big D and the Kids Table fame. While I don’t have a problem with bands/artists having others sing or play on their albums, I’m not sure if it is needed here. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great song, however, Mr. McWane’s part does more to hurt then help the cause. Grade: A-
5. “It’s a Great Day for America Everybody (Yes Indeed!)”- Survey Says! leaves their horns alone in this NOFXesque punk rock number. I really like how, like the first song, this one leads into the next. Grade: B
6. “Show Me Potato Salad!” I’m not sure what this one has to do with potato salad, but it will definitely get your feet movin’ and your fist pumpin’ Grade: A-
7. “Cake Eater” (feat. Joe Ragosta)- Besides the backing vocal harmonies, there really is nothing new or novel here. That’s a good thing when all of the previous songs have been nothing short of great! Grade: B+
8. “At Least I’m Safe Inside My Mind”-With blaring horns to start the song off, Survey Says! lets their emo side show. This song starts out probably the softest sounding on the disc and then switches to probably one of the hardest. Grade: A-
9. “Denial”- With guitars that bleed through from the previous song, this is a solid punk rock tune. The horns are in your face and pack a punch. The brass section really shines at the 2:20 mark Grade: B
10. “Anger”-Sticking only to the crunchy punky guitars vs. switching to a more ‘ska guitar’ feel, this song feels a lot like New Found Glory to me, but with horns! Grade B+
11. “Turn the Page, Wash Your Hands”- Certainly not losing any steam, “Turn the Page, Wash your Hands” is a major contender for best track on the album. The horns are showcased nicely amongst the other instruments, especially the guitar parts, which are reminiscent of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” Grade: A
My taste in ska music has definitely changed over the years. I cut my teeth on bands like Mustard Plug and Less than Jake, along with other bands in the ska-punk set. Although I still listen to these bands today, I find myself enjoying a wider variety of music in the genre, especially more of the traditional sounding bands. Why? I feel that with a lot of the more punky sounding bands, much of the musicianship is lost vs. the slower-paced rocksteady variety. This is certainly not the case with Survey Says! While they are not a band that has a lot of musical range like a Mad Caddies for Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, they stick to a formula that works and have perfected it with each and every song. As a whole, this album feels like a complete work, with excellent sound quality and having several of the songs lead into the one after. The horns are a major focus with this band; never being buried in the background. Certainly the horn section is the icing on the ska-punk cake, this band would still sound pretty great without them. What also creates likeability of this album are the guitar parts which are well-crafted, often times switching several times within each song. I also think that many bands try to sound “too punk” as they to try to avoid the “pop” label. Survey Says! seems to embrace this with the excellent vocal harmonization on every song. If you are reading this review, then you are a ska fan. You must admit however, that our favorite music genre does not have radio and TV exposure that it deserves. Maybe some ska music is too hard, too corny, to old fashion, too 80’s sounding, too whatever to really resonate with a larger niche of fans. If there is one band that can appeal to the masses and the college radio crowd, it is Survey Says! hopefully giving much needed attention to the scene. “Observations of the Human Condition” will do for the ska scene what Reel Big Fish’s “Sellout” did in the 90’s. Overall Grade: A-