I am very excited to be doing a review of Max and Invader’s latest effort ‘Runnin’ on Fumes.’ Known at the time as simply The Invaders, this was the first ska band I had ever seen live. The year was 1996 and the Invaders could pack a local coffee house with their raw ska energy (rest in peace Mission Coffee House-Stevens Point, WI). 15 plus years later and they are still tearin’ it up.
As a whole, this album is a great representation of upbeat 2-tone style ska; a must for any fan of this subgenre. If you are more into ska-punk, this is not the album for you. New listeners will enjoy discovering this little gem of an album. Those that are familiar with the earlier albums and live shows from this band, may be in for a shock. This is not the Invaders of the mid to late 90’s. Let’s check it out!
- Runnin’ on Fumes- The title track actually sounds like the old Invaders sound. This one makes me want to get up off my seat. The horns sound great in this traditional number. I would love to hear this one live! Grade: A
- Miss You- This is a slower ditty. Although Max’s voice has a bit of an echo, this is a pretty solid song none the less. The female vocals are a nice touch, which really add to the song’s appeal. Grade: B
- Try to See- Oooh, harmonica! This is song appears on their ‘All That’s Normal Turns to Chaos’ album, but this version is a much slower jam than the original. Typically I hate when bands re-record earlier material, especially when they slow the tempo down. That being stated, it works (in a major way) for this song. As previously mentioned, I have been a fan of these guys (and now gal) for a while, and the original version was never my favorite. I dig this tune! Grade: B+
- Something Else- I can’t place this song-I can’t tell whether it has a Caribbean or a New Orleans type feel. Overall the horns are really prominent and are what carry the song. It also features a nice sax solo around the 1:40 mark and a cowbell. You gotta love a song with a cowbell. Grade: B
- Dancing in the Fallout- Another ditty which features a harmonica. Although I like some of the elements this song (i.e. the Jamaican sounding gentleman featured throughout), this song just did not work for me. Maybe it was Max’s attempt at falsetto singing. Sorry Max! Speeding up the tempo towards the end doesn’t help much either. Grade: C
- Girl Like You- This one starts out a little bit more rockin’ and then falls into line with the previous songs. A dig the horns in this one. Is that a fiddle that I hear? I have a feeling that this one will grow on me the more I listen to it. Grade: B-
- A Birthday Song-Yeah more rock guitar! A party song-literally. I wasn’t sure about this one the first time I listened to it, but it’s growing on me. Grade:B+
- Jump in the Line-Cover tunes can be risky. They can be a raging success or an epic failure. Also, it’s hard not to compare them to the originals and other groups that have covered the same song. This is such an iconic song that it will hard to improve on. Max and his crew do a nice job at adding a slight variation to the original as well as to the cover done by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies ( Baseketball Soundtrack). While this song is kind of a novelty number, it probably works better live than on an album. Good song none the less. Grade: B
- Paper Tigers- I really like the harmonization of this one. Otherwise this song is just alright. Grade: C
- Vesper- Pick it up! An Upbeat tempo with subtle violin in the background. I never thought there was room for fiddle music in ska. For nostalgia sake, I really appreciate the James Bond reference from the song “Spy’s Demise” from their ‘Double Live’ disc (as a side note, this still remains as one of the best ska albums ever. EVER!) Grade: B
- Not Lonely-This song makes me feel like I’m in a dark alley somewhere. I like the grittiness of this song. It’s weird to here Max sing a song like this, but I dig it anyway. Grade: B+
- Elizabeth- Nice! This is another re-recording from the ‘All That’s Normal Turns to Chaos’ album. I never really liked this song in the past and always found myself skipping over it. Not anymore. Instead of slowing things down as in the case of “Try to See” they have picked things up just a tad. The violin and organ are really prominent in this one. Although this is still a slower song in general, I like it a lot. Grade: A-
- Feels So Good- When I heard this song, my initial reaction was “I’ve heard this song before; is this from some 80’s TV show.” After some research I found that this is a cover from Chuck Mangione. The original is fantastic, if you are into oldies or nostalgia. Max does an amazing job with this one. Although this is an instrumental it is one of my favorites on the disc. Grade: A
Summary: Overall, this is not a bad record. In fact it is a pretty good record, but as previously mentioned, this is not the Invaders you grew up with (if you did like me). Get over yourself. Things have to change. Although I prefer the songs I grew up with and heard so many times live, I like this album. The violin is a nice touch and is something we have not seen in the genre before. Many bands out there have really excellent sounding cd’s but then they are horrible live. This is not the case with the Invaders. The stage is where they shine. I’m sure that the good songs on this disc are amazing live and I can’t wait to catch a show again. I urge you to do the same. Overall Grade: B