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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The New Limits are back!

It has been a while since we have heard from Boston’s ‘The New Limits.’  This band has unleashed a follow up to their 2015 release with a self-titled LP.  Let’s take this one for a test drive…

  1. “Loss For Words”- The New Limits kick things off with a traditional number, featuring one heck of a saxophone solo.  This is the style of ska I was raised on, not really punky, yet more upbeat than most of the traditional stuff out there.  A great dancin’ song.  Grade:  B+
  2. “Transition”-Another up-tempo ska ditty that will get your feet moving. The lead vocals were a little monotone for me; however I real dug the backing vocals on this one.  The sax gets his time to shine again as well.  Grade: B+
  3. “New Way”-Time to slow things down a bit in this next number. What this song lacks in tempo, it more than makes up in horn power.  Skank on!  Grade: B+
  4. “Up In the Air”-Even though I think this is the same vocalist as the previous songs, the quality here seems to be kicked up a notch. This one is also a tad on the slower side with almost a “smoke filled lounge” sort of feel.  Reminds me of some of the tunes from the Bishops.  Great tune.  Grade: A-
  5. “Stir the Pot”- The New Limits stick to their ska roots while incorporating a dose of funk. Get your groove on with this song as it’s probably the most edgy thus far.  Grade: A-
  6. “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”- I really dig the horn solos near the end of this tune, but overall, this one drags on a bit with me.  With so many other fine songs on this album thus far, it is hard to stand out in the crowd.  A solid tune nonetheless, just not one of my favs.  Grade: B
  7. “Champion (Underdog)”- If ever there was a ska anthem for the self doubters, this would be it. Having more of a reggae feel, this great song features more of a gritty guitar and a melodica.  Although it is short in length, it definitely packs a major punch to the ear drums.  Grade: A-
  8. “I’ll Never Listen”- “I’ll Never Listen” embodies the traditional ska vibe with an old-timey 50’s feel. Lace up your saddle shoes and head on down to the sock hop.  Think The Skatalites meets Pleasantville.  Big thumbs up!  Grade: A
  9. “Fuego”-Each member of the band, gets his turn in the spotlight in this blazing instrumental that has a slight Latin big band feel. Great stuff.  Grade: A
  10. “Part of Me”-More melodica magic can be heard in the slower paced “Part of Me.” Although Matty C is singing out of range in some parts, this is still a great, great song.  Grade: A-
  11. “Priceless”-The New Limits save one of their bests for lasts. Lyrically, this is just a fun ditty that will keep you skankin’ long after the song is done.  Grade: A-

 

The year was 1996 when I attended my first ska show.  Max and the Invaders (known then as simply The Invaders) packed the smoky coffee and played for what seemed like hours.  I was hooked on ska and the rest is history.  Now I appreciate all variations of this great genre, but it was The Invaders that introduced me to the danceable, up-tempo version that I still love today.  As mentioned above, The New Limits do an excellent job of playing track after track of this skank worthy type of ska.  This being noted, every song is not a carbon copy of the one before, but rather is a new musical experience, accomplished through varied tempos and a smattering of other genres.  There are many bands out there with accomplished horn sections, but featuring solos seems to be oftentimes overlooked.  The New Limits take extra care to let each of the horn players show their stuff, so to speak.  Vocally speaking, Matty C doesn’t have my favorite voice in the biz; it is certainly not off-putting either.  That being said, you can see from the grades above, this fact did not affect my grading much at all.  This is a great album that belongs in your collection.  If you are a fan of The Green Room Rockers, Dropsteady, The Dropsteppers or even Rude King, then give The New Limits a listen!

Overall Grade: A-

 

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‘The Coast Is Clear’ Courtesy of Madaline

After taking a hiatus in the mid-2000s, Madaline from Denton, TX has been hard at work the past few years.  Following a release last year, these dudes (and 1 dudette) have released ‘The Coast Is Clear,’ a 6-song EP.  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “The Coast is Clear”- Starting things off, is this lightning-paced punk number accompanied by an arsenal of horns. Armed with dual vocalists found in Mark O’Neal Kimberlin and Adaline Cherry, this tune is a rip, roarin’ good time!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Vernal Concession”- Aside from the backing vocals, Ms. Cherry gets a chance to rock the mic in this next ditty. Classic third wave guitar with a horn line that you can’t get out of your head.  What’s not to love?  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Failing Me”- I enjoy ska of all sorts, but the danceable variety is what got me hooked in the first place. “Failing Me” is less on the punky side and features, not only smooth vocals, but a sweet trumpet solo as well.  You better do some stretches, because it’s skankin’ time.   Grade: A-

 

  1. “Where Do We Go Now?”- For some reason the vocals in this one seem a little more polished.  Mark sounds great here both alone and when harmonizing with Adaline.    Awesome song!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Fever”- Letting the horn section rest a bit, “Fever” is a sensitive punk number (okay, I’ll say it-“emo”). Despite not really being a ska song, this is a solid number.  I dig it!  Grade: B+

 

  1. In the Ether (Acoustic)”- Your standard striped-down end-of-the- album acoustic song. It’s okay.  Grade: C

 

I have a love/hate relationship with EPs.  On one hand, a band includes their best stuff with no “filler tracks” you sometimes find on a full length.  On the other hand, I feel a little let down, only because I want to hear more.  Both are the case for Madaline’s ‘The Coast is Clear’ EP.  For those of you that are regular readers, you know that I have a soft spot for bands with dual vocalist, especially when one is a guy and one is a lady.  This dimension, which Madaline takes full advantage of, leads to great variety in the vocal department.  Mark and Adaline can shine in their own rights, as well as when they share the microphone.  I enjoyed Mark’s vocals on the later tracks; he sounds better when he sings in a slightly higher pitch.  As far as the rest of the band, they do an excellent job at crafting songs which are not only enjoyable, but sound completely different from the one before it.  There are no two songs here that sound alike, from the heavier feel of “The Coast is Clear’ to the skank-worthiness of “Failing Me.” Other than the lackluster acoustic number at the end, my only beef with this album is that the horn section is muddled amongst the guitar parts in “Where Do We Go Now?” Otherwise they are on point for the rest of the album.  Not your usual ska-punk fair, Madaline does a great job and keeping things entertaining over the course of only 6 tracks.  Now if they would only release another LP…

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

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Part II-‘What Do You Know About Ska Punk?-Vol. 1’

11. The Main Street Sweep-“Dear Karen”- The Main Street Sweep is a rock band with some ska elements, as highlighted by this fun little ditty. The saxophone really wails, in this ode to 50’s style.  Good times.  Grade: B

12. Malarky-“Rizla”- The lone saxophone is a standout, but in general, this song is redundant and just plain wacky. There are at least three vocals going on at one point, none of which I enjoyed.  There is also a weird transition point at the 2:00 minute mark.  Grade: D

13.  Stacked Like Pancakes-“Renegade”- Stacked Like Pancakes is one the hottest bands on the scene today and have been touring with Reel Big Fish. With their soft-spoken vocals and catchy song-writing, I really enjoy this band.  Although “Renegade” is one of the best songs on their latest album, the entire album is great.  Go check it out…now!  Grade: A

14.  Bone Daddies-“Sinister City”-What do the Bone Daddies sound like? Well they sound like one part The Insyderz and one part 80’s hair-metal.  These guys rock hard, but I think their overall sound could be polished just a tad.  Grade: C

15.  Goldstein-“Stealing Glances”- British-boy rap meets ska in “Stealing Glances.” Vocally, the singer is rather monotone in this mostly, stripped-down song. This “just okay” number grows tiresome and almost a chore to make it through towards the end.   B-

16.  Beat the Smart Kids-“Brain Pollution”- I really enjoy the lone saxophone and the low roar of the organ of this typical ska punk number and the use of “pick it up” took me back to the late 90’s. Although the gruffer style lyrics are what you’d expect in this genre, they are not my favorite here.  All in all a pretty solid tune.  If you dig these guys, check out the similar sounding ‘4 Aspirin Morning’ from Wisconsin.  Grade: B

17. Jake and The Jellyfish-“Coffee Tally”- Not to sound like a broken record, but a lot of why I like a band hinges on whether I enjoy the lead vocalist’s voice. While I’m certainly not in love with the vocals, there is something unique here that makes this song oddly intoxicating.  The horn section really let it rip in this garage rock/ska mashup.  Grade: B

18.  Lucky Luxury-“Camp For the Night”-I wish I would have heard of this band sooner. So far this is one of my favorite tracks on this album (I know I have a long way to go).  Some of the smoothest traditional ska I’ve heard with great backing vocals and organ.  Boo-yah!  (If you like this band , check out The Duppies).   Grade A

19.  The Dirty Notion-“Someday”- Sounding as tough as their hometown of Detroit, The Dirty Notion’s “rough around the edges” style is a homage to skinhead reggae, according to the band. I agree 100% with this assessment.  Although this is probably my least favorite sub-genre of ska, The Dirty Notion does it well.  Grade: B-

20.  Madaline-“I Don’t Have Friends with 1-800 Numbers”- I love, love, love bands that have both a female and male singer sharing responsibilities. I did not appreciate the male lead in this song, as much asthe gal, however their overall sound prompted me to check out their other tunes.  “I Don’t Have Friends with 1-800 Numbers,” is a solid song but I enjoy most of their other tunes much more.  This band rocks!  Grade: B

 

  1. No Cops For Miles-“It Doesn’t Matter (Feat.The Worst & The Stupid Stupid Henchmen)”- The screaming is awful.  The vocals and the instrumentation seem to be going in completely opposite directions.  Also it sounds as if this was recorded in a garage.  Grade: F

 

  1. Part One Tribe-“Selena”- Part One Tribe, helmed by ROB-D brings it with their reggae rock style.  The vocals seem to be coming out of a much older gentlemen, which adds some much appreciated depth to their sound.  Why have I never heard of this band before? Grade: A-

 

  1. Stupid Flanders-“Infectious”- Acoustic guitars rarely work for me, when it comes to incorporating it into the genre.  They quickly switch to more familiear territory with the typical thirdwave guitar riff and blaring horns.  Fun song!  Grade: B

 

  1. The Great Asian Psycopath-“Politricks”- These guys are a 2-piece punk outfit (with a virtual drummer!) addling just a sprinkle of ska to the mix.  There was really nothing here that really stood out for me about this song.  Grade: C

 

  1. The Hempsteadys-“Charlie Dynamite”- Starting out with a bit of a disco flare, the instrumentation hear is top-notch.  Once again, not being in love with the vocals, I downgrade only based upon that.  Grade: B

 

  1. Navarro & The Traitors-“Youth Not Wasted”- While I like the unique vocals of Eric Abbey, this song was just ok with me. There seems to be a lot going on in this gritty tune, and I’m not sure they all flow together.  Grade: C

 

Are You ‘Easily Distracted?”

After 4 years and last year’s full length album, Bumsy and the Moochers have put out another EP.  The ‘Easily Distracted’ EP is a collection of 5 songs, from this Chicago-based sextet.  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “22 Chicago Avenue”- Let’s start things out with ska-infused garage rock. Fast and loose is the name of the game in this female fronted opener.  Grade: B

 

  1. “All This Time”- Great song! The Moochers tighten things up in this well written punk number.  Blaring horns mixed with smooth vocal harmonies.  Thumbs up. Grade: A-

 

  1. “Don’t Feed the Pigeons”- Rather than a sleepy little tune reminiscent of sitting in the park, “Don’t Feed the Pigeons” gives this notion the middle finger. Obscenity-laced ska-punk in the most unapologetic way.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Guilty Pleasure”- For the record, there is nothing wrong with Sum 41(just listen to the song, you’ll get it). As the name suggests, everyone listens to music that would be considered a guilty pleasure.  Unfortunately, my guilty pleasures are more cringe-worthy than any band listed in this song (B-52’s, Devo and 3 Doors Down).  Fun song!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “JP Knows How to Party”- JP are my initials so maybe this song is about me! Although the lyrics are quite repetitive, this is a great song nonetheless.  It actually feels like the band could be playing this one at an all-night frat party -Grade: B+

 

 

Bumsy and the Moochers play punk the way it is meant to be played; loud, and rowdy.  Add a few horns and you have the hardest hitting ska punk band this side of the Mississippi.  Although at times the instrumentation drowns out the vocals just a tad, this is a great collection of songs.  There may be only 5 tracks (making fans beg for more!), however, each song is unique in its own right.  The standouts here are the raucous guitar work and the easy- on- the- ears vocals of Caitlin Edwards.  Caitlin proves herself here, but I would like to see her stretch herself in the future in a slower, more soulful number perhaps.  The horn section certainly gives this band a “ska sound” however I felt that at least with this recording, their sound was somewhat tamped out.  I hope I get to see these guys to see if this truly is the case, or just a mixing thing.  Overall, I enjoyed this album, as I am always biased towards female fronted bands.  To draw comparison, they sound like a less “poppy” ‘Half Past Two,’  more in line with fellow Illinois skankers ‘Run and Punch.’   So don’t get ‘distracted’ and check out the latest release from Bumsy and the Moochers!

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

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Like most ska bands, Beat The Smart Kids are ‘Broke Again’

So you say you’re into ska punk?  Well let’s check out the latest from Chicago’s Beat the Smart Kids.  The 12-song LP entitled ‘Broke Again’ is a follow up to last year’s EP.  Let’s push play and crank this up to 11…

 

  1. “Rise Up!”-Beat the Smart Kids don’t mess around in this first track. The mellow saxophone is contrasted with the aggressive, no holds barred lyrical style.  Don’t get caught in the middle of the mosh pit during this tune.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Chemical Reaction”-Skank it up! The classic ska beat is created by the organ here rather than the often overdone guitar.  I really dig the switching off of vocalists as well as the killer horn solos.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Brain Pollution”- Although this is a “slow skanker” of sorts, it is not devoid of BTSK’s hard edge sound. The use of the line “pick it up” has (sadly) left the ska scene, but it shows up here in full force.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Emoticons”-“Emoticons” really has me torn-while I thought the first half of the song was monotonous and drug a little, the second half was probably the best crafted song thus far. What did it for me was the frenzied pace to the horns.  I even dug the Rock Lobster-esque thing the lead singer does with his voice at one point.  Great tune!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Blind Faith”- This next track showcases the organ more instead of having him play a supporting role like most of the previous tracks. This song has a lot going for it; however I feel that the different parts, both musically and vocally didn’t fit together as well as on other songs on the album.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Ruby Crystals”- More ska punk with a little bit of metal influence. Not my favorite track, but definitely a solid number.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Go to Bread”-With mounting tension from the get-go, this (more or less) instrumental will get your feet moving. This short little ditty is a winner!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “One Point Twenty What?”-As one of my favorite movies of all time, I have to give kudos for the Back to the Future reference. Although the vocals were a bit aggressive for my liking, the horn section is top notch; some of the best I’ve heard on this album.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Life’s Lessons”- While there is nothing new here in terms of style, this is a slower groove, while still keeping the ska punk theme in the forefront. Grade: B+

 

  1. “Do Not Disturb”-“Do Not Disturb” takes a little while to get going, and frankly lacks some of the enthusiasm of previous songs. This is not a “bad” song by any stretch, it just did not drum up any urges to dance, skank or do anything for that matter.    Grade: B-

 

  1. “You Haven’t Lived (‘Til You’ve Died)”- Now that’s more like it! Hop off your seat once more to go tear up the dance floor.  Awesome waling saxophone.  Grade: B

 

  1. “M.S.O.T.E”- With equal parts ska and hard punk, “M.S.O.T.E.” invokes a similar critique as “Blind Faith.” There are a lot of things going here with slightly awkward transitions between the tempo changes. I appreciated the slightly more aggressive approach taken here.  Grade: B

 

 

Holding nothing back on ‘Broke Again,’ Beat the Smart Kids dish out a generous portion of ska-punk flavor over 12 tracks.  Overall this album feels right at home with acts such as 4 Aspirin Morning, The Hub City Stompers (who are all coincidently playing Skappleton in a couple of weeks) and General Tso’s Fury.  There are also glimpses of NOFX as well as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  While I did mention a few “song-smithing” issues I had, these problems were few and far between.  Musically, ‘Broke Again’ is everything you would expect from an album in this genre; hard-hitting yet danceable at times as well.  I am really impressed with the horn section that can just as easily play it cool in the background as it can slap you across the face with their booming sound.  I always like bands with organs and BTSK is no exception.  There is no escaping the ska sound with this often overlooked instrument.  The vocals are gruff and raspy, which again is pretty par for the course.  Beat the Smart Kids have not re-invented the ska punk wheel, but what they have done is created an enjoyable set of ditties that will freshen up your dusty collection.

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

 

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Hope This Works!

Certainly wasting no time, the 2014 born Shark Punch have released their debut full-length.  The Hayward California septet unleashes 10 songs of ska punk flavor entitled ‘Hope This Works.’  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “Shut Up Dustin”-Grab your boards and get ready to shoot the curl in this ska-laced surf instrumental. With fantastic solos from the saxophone and the trumpet, Shark Punch starts out on the right fin.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Day of the Dead”- The first song warms you up for the absolute musical beat-down your will experience during “Day of the Dead.”  This is your basic hard-hitting punk number (with horns!).  Grade: B

 

  1. “Same Old Things”- I love when bands re-create the third wave sound that I grew up with. Look no further than this for a perfect example of the when ska had its 15 minutes of fame.  Great song!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Fall in Line”- This next track is more of the 90’s sound with signature ska-guitar and a killer solo near the end. Grade: A-

 

  1. “Mr. Drift On”-Slow and methodical from the start, I really dig the craftsmanship of this song as a whole. It is the slowest song thus far, but it is also my favorite.   Grade: A

 

  1. “Insane”-Shark Punch cranks things up once again is this horn-heavy number. Maybe it is the stark contrast between the lead vocals and the backing gang vocals, but this song did not strike a chord with me.  Grade: C

 

  1. “Stuck on the Same Page”- Returning to form in this next track the boys crank out another solid number. A little clunky at the transitions, this is still a pretty decent ska ditty reminding me a little of the Rayguns.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Shit Fucker”- Normally I don’t like swearing for the sake of swearing, but this SO over the top it is laughable and will get stuck into the inner grooves of your brain.  A foot-tapper for sure.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Boom Boom Boom”- If you took the fun upbeat tunes of the Aquabats and crossed them with the sex-soaked “Caress Me Down”  from Sublime, you would get “Boom Boom Boom.” The real question is why boom, when you can double boom?  Awesome!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Don’t Fuck With Me”-The classic ‘love gone bad’ formula wrapped in the ska punk garnishes works for me every time. Excellent work by the songsmith in the danceable closing track.  Grade: A-

 

Sharing the same love of the ‘F word’ as Reel Big Fish’s Aaron Barrett, Shark Punch brings it hard in their latest release.  Rocking the ska-punk subset, they share the same overall sound as Buck-O-Nine, The AoKs and  Backyard Superheroes.  Maybe not as polished at the third wave bands that inspired their sound, this is a great first album to say the least.  With little variation in genre (which is wise for a first album), there is still enough variety here to make every song sound unique and enjoyable.    The horns are heard loud and clear, fitting nicely with punked up guitar.  I personally think that Shark Punch shines the brightest when they stick to the 90’s ska formula or when they slow things down a bit as in “Mr. Drift On”.   Things get a little unhinged in the harder, more aggressive numbers such as “Day of the Dead” and “Insane.”  I say this not to criticize, but merely to state my musical taste.  Overall this is a great recording that anyone into ska punk will love to sink their teeth into.  I see much promise for these gents, and I look forward to what the future holds for them.  Surf on over to their site and check out these sweet tunes!

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

 

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The Slack is Back Jack!

After 25 years and 15(really 15?) albums, The Slackers have released a self-titled album.  Certainly a mainstay in the ska community for over two decades, this band needs no introduction.  Let’s check out this latest offering…

 

  1. “The Boss”- The Slacker’s start the album true to form, heavy on both horns and keys. Complete with laser blasts, this one is sure to please.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “By the Time I Get to Sleep”- Traditional ska with a dash of big band! Not sure whether to skank or to dip your dancin’ partner?  Me neither, but what I do know is that this is a great number.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Go Go Go!”- This one’s a slow “skanker of sorts” with the classic sax wail of Mr. Hillyard. Just when you think the song is done, the lone organ leads the way with the guitar and drums not far behind.  Dual vocalists and steady drum beat march this one out to its final note.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Working Overtime”- Ah yes the all too familiar lament of the every working man. Although Vic hands off the mic to Glen Pine in this fantastic number, his work on the organ is not overlooked.   Dave also makes his presence known here.  Thrown in a pinch of dub action and you’ve got yourself one catchy tune!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Spin I’m In”- “Spin I’m In” is more bare bones musically as compared to the previous tracts. The limited use of horns (up until the very end) lets listener appreciate the truly unique vocal stylings of Vic.  I’m not always a huge fan of slower numbers, but this one’s a gem!  Grade: A

 

  1. “I Want to Be Your Girl”- The Rarebreed records website sites The Beatles and Beach Boys as a few influences incorporated into the musical fabric of this record. If ever there was a Beetles sounding song, this would be the one.  As a whole the song is gritty in nature which contrasts perfectly with the Fab Four inspired vocal harmonization.  Awesome!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Pockets of a Rich Man”-Bending a little more towards rock and roll, “Pockets of a Rich Man” has The Rolling Stones written all over it. Vic even sounds more like Jagger in this one more than any other tune to date.  While this is certainly a change of pace in style, a great song is a great song no matter what.  Thumbs up.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Run Til We Can’t Outrun”-Glen wrestles the mic back in this next track. I can’t place the exact style from which this song reminds me, but is definitely has an early rock feel to it.  Doo-wop?  Motown?  Zager and Evans?   I remain perplexed, yet thoroughly entertained at the same time.  Fantastic song.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Things I Can’t Forget”-“Things I Can’t Forget” begins as a slower, trippy song, featuring a portion of itself being played in reverse. Studio affects and changing rhythms beginning at the halfway point change this seemingly traditional tune into a drug induced, smoke- hazed acid trip of a song.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Truth Comes Knocking”- This is your standard Slackers ska magic. The most striking part of this song is the trading off of vocals between Glen and Vic was well as the captivating organ solo.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Chewing on a Face”-This song is amazing! There is an overall edginess created by the monotone nature of Vic’s voice and the blaring horns.  The female backing vocals are the icing on the cake.  This ditty sounds like it is straight out of a police drama from the early 80’s.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Spaceman 3104”- The Slackers have taken a song which would be too long for my liking if done by anyone else and created a showstopper in this already epic album.  “Spaceman 3104” is an appropriate title as it does create a celestial feeling while listening.  Groovy!    Grade: A

 

  1. “The Boss (Alt. Mix)” [Bonus Track] – In general I like the idea of alternative versions of songs. While they are not meant to replace the original, they are as the name suggests, another version.  While I enjoy the original version slightly more, this is a fun variation.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Chewing on a Dub” [Bonus Track]- Well the original is already a scorcher, so I’m not sure how you can improve on it.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Christine Keeler” [Bonus Track]- This is an amazing instrumental that should have been on the original album, however, I’m sure they only reason it did not make the final cut is because of time constraints on an LP.  This number showcases each horn as well as the organ.  Way to go out with a bang.  Grade: A

 

 

It is difficult to image any band, especially one in a genre that has never been favored by the mainstream to last for 25 years.  Never the less, The Slackers keep touring and cranking out fantastic songs year after year.  While I was always familiar with this band during my early skanking days, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I got to see them live, that I began to truly appreciate their sound.  With Vic’s one of a kind voice, the Slacker’s style has remained fairly consistent over the course of their discography.   Until now.  The Slacker’s spruce things up by injecting sounds we haven’t heard since the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Many bands have made a foray into other styles much to their fans dismay or delight which often times seems gimmicky.  Rest assured, there is no gimmick here, just a collection of finely crafted tunes from the masters themselves.  Overall, this is a fantastic recording that sounds as if the band is playing all together vs. each instrument being recorded separately.  Each song is unique in its own right, while keeping constant with the traditional ska meets trippy goodness vibe.  Taking command as lead micman and ivory tickler, Vic allows the rest the band to shine throughout as well.  Although Vic’s voice has grown on me over the years, I still appreciate the energy that Glen brings here as well. The bonus tracks were not needed but greatly appreciated.   Of course buying this album is a no brainer for the longtime Slackers fan, this will appeal to the masses as well.  For those middle agers that want to take a nostalgic trip(pun intended) through their high school  years, this album is for you.  I know it is early in the year, but I predict this to slug it out as one of the best ska albums of 2016.  The Slack is back jack!

 

Grade: A

 

 

 

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