“B”eware, the Holphonics have a new album!

It is not uncommon for a ska band to wait 5+ years to release their next album (yeah I’m talking about you Deals Gone Bad, Mustard Plug and The Mad Caddies). However, The Holophonics certainly waste no time in between releases. This latest release “B Side? Is That Still A Thing?” came out a few weeks ago. They are also set to release an album of all original songs this upcoming summer. These dudes (and 1 dudette) have been hard at work. For now, let’s check out “B Side? Is That Still A Thing?”…

1. “Four Simple Words”- Caught between two worlds: poppy punk-ska and traditional ska, this opening tune, is sure to please. While I enjoy the switching off of vocalists, I prefer the smooth, less aggressive one. This song could have come off of any Reel Big Fish setlist. Grade: B

2. “Blank Space”- The Holophonics have their share of original tunes, but have really made a stamp on the ska scene with their catchy cover tunes. Their rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” is no exception. Lydia Low takes the mic on the rocksteady version of this hugely successful song. Grade: B+

3. “Girl All The Bad Guys Want”- I never was a huge fan of ‘Bowling for Soup’ but The Holophonics definitely breath new live into this song, with the use of catchy horn lines. Grade: B+

4. “Island of Shame”- The horns are on fire in this next number! There is more of an upbeat quality in this rendition of the Lagwagon original. Grade: A-

5. “California”- blazing horns and traditional ska guitar reign supreme in this ‘Phantom Planet’ cover song. I know the original got a lot of airplay, but I always thought it was rather dullsville. I dig this remake! B+

6. “Die Young”- Instrumentally this Ke$ha remake will make you, as the song states, ‘keep dancing until you die.’ Vocally, this song is not as polished as the others on the album. Grade: B+

7. “Jimbo and Bob”- Clocking in at only 30seconds, “Jimbo and Bob” is an intro for a kids show (not sure if it is a real show or not).Anyway, I like it. Grade: A-

8. “Sauerkraut”- It’s too bad there isn’t more to this song, because I really enjoy the horn section. Other than that, it reminds me of “Mashed Potatoes” by ‘Five Iron Frenzy.’ Grade: B

9. “Rockstar”- On the surface this song is pretty dumb. But how can you not love a song that combines chemistry, energy drinks and everyone’s undying passion to become a rockstar? Grade: B+

10. “Theme Song for Eating Tacos (Demo)”- Essentially this is an instrumental, with a few ‘woah,woah,woahs’ added. Do not be fooled. This is an excellent 90’s-third wave song. Awesome! Grade: A

11. “Sweater Weather (Live Rehearsal)”- I do not know who is singing on this track, but the vocals here are great, as compared to the raspier vocals on many of the other songs. The lyrics are clever and match the slower pace of this song. This is a winner all the way. Grade: A

12. “Heaven Sent and Hell Bent (Brain’s Last Rehearsal)”- Bratty punk meets third wave ska in “HSaHB.” Throw is a dash of 80’s hair band to round things out. Although this is a live recording the audio quality is actually pretty decent. Grade: B+

13. “The Government Can’t Tell Me What To Do With My Body”- Some talking done in a record studio. Sorry folks, nothing to see here. Moving right along…Grade: C

14. “Sorry For Starting A Band (Brian’s Last Rehearsal)”- With vocal quality rivaling that of ‘Sweater Weather,” this is another solid song. Overall this is a slow number, with a big brassy sound. The Holophonics must apologize after not listening to Aaron Barrett’s advice about starting a band. Grade: A-

15. “All I Wanna Do is Sell Out (Brian’s Last Rehearsal)”- Another ska-punk hit with great harmonization. With a little sense of humor you can almost forget about the struggles of the music industry. This too is a clever song, with samples from pop culture and even Fiddler on the Roof. Grade: B+

16. “All I Wanna Do is Sell Out ( A Capella)”- When you are not worrying about instruments, you can truly focus on vocal quality. The A Capella aspect adds to the overall wittiness of the song. I can’t decide which version I like more. Grade: B+

17. “BLR”- More messing around in the studio. Grade: C

Whenever I hear that a band is releasing an album of B-sides, I automatically think that it will essentially be a collection of crappy songs not good enough to make the cut for the ‘real album.’ This is not the case with “B Sides? Is That Still A Thing?.” The Holophonics bring it once again with their well-seasoned brand of ska punk. Overall, this is a lot of music with 17 songs (15 if you take out the studio banter) and the sound quality is spot on, despite there being several rehearsal tracks. There is also a nice mix of original tunes and cover songs, which will appeal to the diehard Holophonics fan as much as it will to the new listener. I really enjoy the powerfulness of the horn section, as they make their collective presence known on each and every song. The vocals were also easy on the ears, but I do wish there would have been more songs featuring Lydia. Please do not keep this talented songstress tucked away. The other strength of this album, is the overall sense of humor it possesses from the shorter songs such as “Jimbo and Bob,” “Rockstar,” and “Sauerkraut to the more elaborate “All I Wanna Do Is Sellout.” It was easy for this listener to tell how much fun the band had in making this album, as this shines through from start to finish. In closing this is just a fun, fun album where the Holophonics dish out more of the good stuff they are known for.

Overall Grade: B+

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