Is There Life After Death?

Formed in 2002, New Jersey’s ‘Hub City Stompers’ are no strangers to the party. With 3 full lengths and one EP under their collective belts, they are true ska veterans. This latest release, “Life After Death,” was released on Stubborn records at the end of last year. Let’s check it out…
1. “Emeute Des Fideles”-What starts out as a rather hardcore punk number quickly switches to ska familiarity. The saxophone steals the show towards the end of the song, with more, kick-to-the-teeth aggressiveness to finish things off. Grade: B

2. “Dirty Dozen”-Not as hard-hitting as the previous song, more of a dancing tune is found in “Dirty Dozen.” A true ska feel! Grade: B+

3. “Lil’ Miss Nuthin’”- The Hub City Stompers slow things down once again, with the smooth tone of the saxophone throughout. I really enjoy the solo at the midpoint as well as the use of vocal harmonies toward the end. Grade: A-

4. “Untouchable”- Did you think you were done skankin’? Stay on the dance floor while you enjoy this catchy tune. Grade: A-

5. “The Takeback”-The sax in this song creates a smooth, laid back feel. It feels as if I’m listening to this in a small club with maybe only 10 other people. Oh wait, the band takes a dramatic turn near the hallway point and takes no prisoners in this punk brawl. Grade: B+

6. “Lifeline”- After getting whipped in the mosh pit during the last song, “Lifeline” brings more of a traditional ska feel. Great stuff! Grade: A-

7. “Pants Music”- What else would you expect from a song called “Pants Music” but a quirky, fun laded song. Grade: B

8. “Blood Orgy”- In true rocksteady fashion, this song also has a swanky quality created again by the excellent use of the saxophone. Also the female vocalist is a very pleasant surprise. Grade: B+

9. “Shallowed Be”- Although I appreciate the switching between classic ska guitar and surf rock guitar, this song just didn’t resonate with me. Grade: C

10. “Black Claddagh”- “Black Claddagh” has that “closing time at the bar” feel. All the patrons are leaving but the band plays on. Bonus points given for the use of a violin! Grade: B

11. “Imperial”- I always cringe a little when I give a higher score to an instrumental then to songs with vocals. What else can I say, this song is a winner! Grade: A

12. “Hey Ed”- Besides the ska guitar rhythm, this is a straight up punk rock number. Vocal harmonization is used in this song, which makes up for the lack of a horn section. While the horns have been pretty solid throughout this album, this song works fine without them. Grade: B+

13. “Benny Bash”- If the last song was done in a punk style, this is more in the lines of hardcore. Sorry guys, not digging this one. Grade: D

With only a few bumps in the road found in “Benny Bash” and “Shallowed Be,” the Hub City Stompers have managed to put out a pretty solid record. While they stick to their skacore roots, there is certainly enough variety in here to keep even the new listener entertained. “Life After Death” features a great mixture of both hard/breakneck songs, and some slower grooves as well. The lead vocals pair nicely with the more mellow tones of the saxophone, which is a standout on almost every song. As mentioned above, allowing Jenny Whiskey to take the reins on vocals is refreshing and I wish she were featured on more songs. While there is much variety in the genre of ska, most bands seem to fit into two camps, either the traditional ska crowd or the ska-pop-punk group. Are there any hardcore ska groups left? Sure, there a few, but the Hub City Stompers are certainly one of the bands that have paved the way. If you like your ska loud and gruff , then this is the album you. Stomp on down to your local music store and pick this one up!

Overall Grade: B


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