P-Funk North: ‘Quake and Bake’

Rock and Reggae collide in P-Funk North’s latest release ‘Quake and Bake.”  This live album is a follow up to a studio album put out only a year ago.  Let’s light it up…

  1. “Love at First Site”- Alright kids, it’s time to pull out your High Times back issues, sit back and take in the slow- jam vibes.  P-Funk kicks out this show with a laid back reggae tune.  Check out the sweet guitar solo near the 3 minute mark.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “More Than Meets the Eye”- P-Funk cranks up their amps to 11 in this next tune. “More Than Meets the Eye” switches between crunchy guitars and the classic reggae/ska guitar bit.  Lyrically, this one’s a little all over the place.  It’s alright.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Come Together”- I love it when bands cover songs outside of their genre.  These guys go straight to the top and cover the Beatles!  P-Funk adds more of a psychedelic edge to this well-known classic.    Grade: B-

 

  1. “Hit the Bowl”- How did I know that there was going to be a song about smoking weed? This song has more of a ska vibe, vs. the reggae heard in the previous songs. The rap style lyrics fell a little flat with me, and overall, this one is just okay.  Grade: C

 

  1. “Smoke Two Joints”-I was not aware that this song was originally done by Toyes; I was only familiar with the Sublime version (as most of you probably are). This pot smoking song is a little bit more put together than the last one, with its awesome guitar solo.  ’  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Feel It In Your Blood”-I’m beginning to see a theme here. P-Funk lays down another edgy reggae number about doing drugs.  Musically, I’m feeling it, but the lyrics were cumbersome at times.  Grade: B-

 

  1. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”- If Billy Joel grew out some dreadlocks and smoked two joints, this is what it would sound like.  A fun version of an old favorite.  Grade: B-

 

  1. “Jealousy”-“Jealousy” is probably the strongest tune on the album, with kind of a “beach reggae” feel. The raspiness of the vocals could have been turned down just a tad, but an enjoyable song none the less. Grade: B+

 

  1. “Beat It”-P-Funk takes on another heavy hitter in covering a Michael Jackson song. I really appreciated the slower pace to this one as well the amazing guitar solo.  They also interjected their own lyrics into the mix, which was cool as well.  Nice job!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Sugercoat”- Another laid back ditty in the same style as “Jealousy.” I began enjoying this song, initially, but then it just drug on and on for me.  Grade: B

 

  1. “I Shot The Sheriff”- This is how you end a concert, with one of the most popular reggae songs from the most famous reggae artist.  Grade: B+

 

I always love me a good live album.  They are void of any studio magic and you get to clearly listen to the musical chops of the band.  This is the next best thing to attending a concert yourself, which is not always on option.  Getting more specific, P-Funk North’s ‘Quake and Bake’ has been an enjoyable trip (pun intented).  While I am not totally on board with Dave’s singing voice, I appreciated the overall grittiness to all of their tunes.  This is a nice mix of both originals and cover tunes alike.  It would have been an easier task to have only covered only ska and reggae tunes (such as “I Shot the Sherriff” and “Smoke Two Joints”), but P-Punk stretches a bit by putting their own spin on some modern classics  There is also a nice balance between the laid back and those tunes  that  go full on rock mode. If you are a fan of Sublime and Pepper, give these New Jersy boys a listen.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Overall Grade: B

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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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Warped Tour 2017, Tinley Park, IL…A Review

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Vans Warped Tour just outside of Chicago.  A lot has changed since the last time I attended the traveling musical music festival back in 1998.  What was once ruled by pop-punk and ska bands has been “warped” into a haven of melodic hardcore bands with a smattering of just about everything else.  Although screamo is not my thang, there were a few bands that made me eager to make the 4 hour drive.  It is impossible to see every band at Warped Tour because of the rotating stage setup, so I can only review the bands that I personally saw.  Also, since ska was not very well represented this year, this review will include other genres as well.  Well here goes…

 

  1. Save Ferris (full set) – Monique Powell and crew was one of the main reasons for wanting to go to Warped Tour this year. Although radically different from each other, I love both of their full length albums and was eager to see them live once again.  While it was great to hear new tunes from the band along with some old favorites, this was a bit of a let- down for me.  Monique still has some powerful pipes, however they were marred, probably from a 20+ year Camel Light habit.  The vocals were raspy and even slurred at times, that of a bar hag that closes out the local saloon.  Overall, it was a pretty decent set, with the band being livelier than ever, it just did not hold up to my expectations.  Grade: B-

 

  1. New Year’s Day (partial set)- I don’t listen to a lot of metal, but after listening to a few of their tunes on Spotify, I thought I’d give this band a try. Most of the band members were covered in some sort of face/neck makeup as if they missed the memo that they were not in fact playing at a Hot Topic.  Ash Costello rocked her signature half black, half red hairstyle as she belted out lyrics with the best of them.  Although ska is still my thing, and I am still not a self-proclaimed metal head, this band is great.  Combining straight up metal with a slight pop element (similar to Papa Roach) with powerfully intoxicating female vocals made for an enjoyable set.  I wish I could have seen the entire show, however, we did leave a little early to catch the next band on our list.  Grade: A-

 

  1. Stacked Like Pancakes(full set)- The other reason for attending Warped Tour this year.  After falling in love with their album and also trying to take in every ska band on the list, SLP was a must see.  Their ‘This Is Us’ album is fantastic, however, it seems to be heavily produced at times and I always wondered if they could pull of their songs live.  Boy did they ever!  Whether playing cover tunes or their own ditties, Stacked Like Pancakes came through with their almost perfect set with both precision and bombastic flare.  Kellen even nailed the rap parts in “Laughing at Me.”  This band has definitely honed their craft.  Move over Reel Big Fish, because Stacked Like Pancakes are the new kings of ska punk!  Grade: A

 

  1. Sonic Boom Six(partial set)- To be frankly honest, I never really got into this band.  Because much of their music is influenced by ska (no horn section) I felt obligated to check them out.   A lead singer has to either have a classically good voice, or at least a voice that is interesting for me to appreciate the band as a whole.  I am sorry to say that in this case it was neither.  I found the vocals to be annoying and difficult to understand what she was singling most of the time.  This was hugely distracting and took away from the band as a whole, as the instrumentation was pretty solid.  This was probably the biggest disappointment of the day for me.  Grade: D

 

  1. Jule Vera (partial set)- Amongst the hardcore screaming bands, Jule Vera was the proverbial sore thumb of Warped Tour. Playing a very pop-heavy version of rock, this band was a breath of fresh air when crunchy guitars and guttural vocals could be heard in the distant.  Switching between traditional drums and  electronic drum pad, Jule Vera’s sound was the likes of something you’d hear on top 40’s radio.  I say this not to criticize but to only categorize.  The biggest stand out for this band was the lead vocalist.  Sweet, but powerful vocals came out of this seemingly 12 year old girl ( I think she is closer to 20 IRL).  Jule Vera was one of the biggest surprises of the day for me.  The only reason we left earlier was to check out another band on the list.  Grade: A

 

  1. Alestorm-(full set)- I can honestly say that Alestorm was the first pirate metal band I had ever seen/heard.  I don’t normally like bands with gimmicks, but these guys are the real deal.  The fact that their music has a “theme” does not take away from the excellent musicianship and often witty song writing.  The lead singer sounds just like you’d expect from a band like this, raspy and a little wacky.  Featuring not only an organ but also a keytar, Alestorm put on a fantastic set.  Check these dudes out if you get the chance.  Grade: A

 

  1. Bad Cop/Bad Cop (full set)- We had not seen any punk bands yet, so it was time to check out Bad Cop/Bad Cop. This all female group was full of sass, but yet looked nice enough to be your mom.  Playing straight up punk with a dash of pop, this group of ladies sure could tear up the stage.   One of the gals had a better voice (I think it was Jennie) and wished she would have sung the lead on more of the songs, but overall this was a fun show.  Classic punk riffs with great vocal harmonies; what’s not to like?  Grade: B

 

  1. American Authors(full set)- This is a band that I have not followed, but was curios to check out because they were on of the more ‘famous’ bands at the venue. Playing a more radio-friendly version of rock than most of the bands at Warped Tour, this band had the stuff.  There is a reason why these guys have “made it” so to speak, from the pleasant vocals to the instrumentation with mass appeal.  The highlight was when the horn section from Save Ferris backed up the guys during their big hit “Best Day of My Life”  Grade: A

 

  1. Anti-Flag(partial set)- I’m not a big Anti-flag fan, but because there were no other bands that we wanted to see at that time slot, thought we would give them a listen. If brash punk rock it your thing, than you would have enjoyed this show.  Although it was kind of what I expected, I was hoping for something more.  It wasn’t horrible, yet I did not become an Anti-Flag convert after this show either.  Besides, the incited circle pit was too much for this old dude to handle, so we made our exit.  Grade: C

 

GWAR(full set)-  GWAR seems like an odd choice for the Warped Tour, but so does a rapper with a mullet(Feeki).  Seeing GWAR was never on my bucket list, but because we were already there, we could not pass up the opportunity.  After all, GWAR is the stuff of legend.  I do not like the growling type of metal the GWAR plays, however, seeing the elaborate costumes and over the top stage show was worth the watch.  Although I was not close enough to the stage to get doused in blood or any other strange liquids, it was still a site to behold.  Grade:C+

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

51. Empatee du Weiss-“Shut Up!”- I will definitely check these guys out.  Think big-band ska with a female lead.  Swanky with a circus feel near the end!  Grade: B+

52. Crash the Owl Party-“Steel Beams”- Taking inspiration from 90’s alternative rock, these dudes added a horn section and boom! There are no easy comparisons here, but if you like your ska on the harder side, than this band is for you.  Grade: B+

53. Atterkop-“Safer Spaces”- If you couldn’t tell already I am not a huge fan of hardcore. Although there are horns and ska guitar mixed in, the hardcore vocals just ruin it for me.  Grade: D

54. SiBANNAC-“Offbeat”- This is a typical example of a punk band that uses the classic ska guitar riff. There is some variety as this guitar part constantly changes tempo throughout, but all in all this song was not my favorite.    Grade: C-

55. Unicorn Injection-“Drunk Nurse”- The self-proclaimed ‘pop-punk band with a ska flare’ has entertained me over the course of nearly three minutes in “Drunk Nurse.”  The instrumentation here could use a little polishing however the vocals (by Miss Karen Roberts) are powerfully intoxicating.  Good stuff.  Grade: B+

56. One Man Down- “This is Growing Up”- Enjoyable ska punk with a pop flare. I dig the vocal harmonies and the blaring horns.  Grade: B+

57. Be Like Max-“Yeah, So What”-When this song first kicked off, I wasn’t sure if I really liked the vocals, but as the song raged on, they grew on me. Great punk guitar and excellent horns make this one a winner.  Grade: A-

58. ZEME LIBRE-“Jungle Master”- Hmmm. Well, I’m not sure if this is ska or reggae or what this really is.  I guess it is jungle music.  Whatever it is, I dig it.  Grade: A-

59. Los Duenos-“Passione”-Although my Spanish is a bit rusty, I did enjoy parts of this Hispanic ditty, mainly the guitar part and the horns. The vocals were a bit aggressive at times and I’m not sure of the record scratching helped or hurt this song.  Grade: B-

60. Half Past Two-“Not Enough”- Tara Hahn and crew slay it in this song, as they do on every song on every album. From Tara’s sweet vocals to their poppier nature, this band has the potential to break through to more mainstream outlets.  This is one of my favorite ska/punk bands of the moment.  Do yourself a solid and listen to their other stuff.  Grade: A

 

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Monty and The Bishops!

Monty Neysmith of Symarip is at it again.  After recording several songs with The Soul Radics and The Bishops, Monty and The Bishops team up once again for this latest single.  Check it out…

  1. Skin Flint- I promise you will be hypnotized by the low roar on the organ in this sweet rocksteady tune.  The horns here are scant, but definitely make an impact.  A fantastic instrumental!  Grade: A-

 

  1. Fung Shu-Ska with an oriental twist. One of the more interesting songs I’ve ever reviewed, I really enjoyed how Monty “toasted” on top of the normal singing parts.  Old School Cool!  Grade: B+

 

 

Although singles certainly whet your appetite for new tunes, they have always been a tease for me, leaving me hungry for more.  The latest release from Monty and The Bishops is no exception. I really enjoyed these two new renditions of classic Symarip songs.  Although his voice is strained somewhat from age, Monty can still lay down some pretty entertaining vocals.  The Bishops are always great, whether they are backing up this seasoned pro, or when performing by themselves.  I would consider the Bishops a ‘live band’ as the performances that I’ve seen pack more of a punch than their recorded tunes.  That being stated, this single is crisp and has excellent sound quality.  Both songs, but more so with “Fung Shu” make you feel like you are in the audience singing and skanking along.  Be sure to check out Monty and The Bishops during several shows they will be playing together over the next few months.  Maybe this will lead to a full length album.  We can only hope.

 

Overall Grade: A-

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New singles! MONTY NEYSMITH of SYMARIP with THE BISHOPS “Skin Flint” b/w “Fung Shu” 7″ and AKASHA “You Make Me Feel Good” b/w “Eye For An Eye” 7″

 

 

 

The Best of the Worst? You Decide

Is ska-core your thing?  Well it’s time to check out the latest EP from New Jersey’s The Best of the Worst.  Let’s give ‘Painted Fools a listen…

 

  1. “Habits Live Hard”-Straying from the typical ska punk sound, The Best of the Worst goes for more of a straight up aggressive rock with horns sound. I really dig the harmonizing backing vocals, but am less of a fan of the screaming.  All in all, this is a solid start.  Grade: B

 

  1. “In My Apartment”- More of a dark, ominous feel than the previous song, “In My Apartment” switches back from stereotypical ska sound, to more hardcore/death metal feel. At times, I felt as if these elements didn’t always meld together, but once again, a pretty decent song none the less.  Grade: B-

 

  1. “Where Complacency Lives”-The horn section really tears it up in this next number. Other than that, I dig the singing parts, but once again, the screaming is not my thing.  Grade: C

 

  1. “Spoiler Alert”-Constant switching of vocalists with a backdrop that sounds like a 70’s sitcom make for an enjoyable tune. Don’t get me wrong, this song still packs a major punch with crunchy punk guitars and deep guttural vocals.  Grade: B

 

  1. “It Doesn’t Really Matter”- Clocking in at only 1:23 minutes, this is the shortest track on the EP. Although the lyrics are scant, I really appreciated the attention paid here to the vocal quality.  A great emo with horns song that I wish could be a tad longer.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Like Bugs in Amber”-I love, love, love the female vocals in this ditty. Big cheers to The Best of the Worst for taking this vocalist from the background and putting her up front and center.  The rest of the song, is concerned, everything fits well together in this great ska punk number.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “We’ve Been Help Captive”- Another song that seems to be all over the place. The regular singing parts and the screaming parts seem to be spliced together from two completely different songs.  Throw the instrumentation in there and you have musical mass confusion.  Grade: D

 

Let’s get this out of the way first.  It will come as no surprise that I am not a big fan of screaming in music.  I can tolerate a little if it is in the background or done sporadically (i.e. Dicky Barrett), but not when it is so in your face as it is on this record.   Also there were several times when these screaming parts felt totally disconnected from the rest of the song, like they didn’t belong.  That being said, there is a lot of great things here, for those of you who are in fact into a more aggressive slant to your ska.  I really appreciated the switching of vocalist; they all certainly each brought something different to the table.  My favorite is the female vocalist, who is great for backing, but exceptional as a lead.  I personally wish that the rest of the album sounded more like “It Doesn’t Really Matter” and “Like Bugs in Amber.”  Although there were a few bumps along the way, but I’m glad I gave this band a listen.  If you are in hardcore, give ‘Painted Fools’ a try!

 

Overall Grade: B-

 

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