Save Ferris is Back!

It’s been a long time coming but Monique Powell and her new crew have released a new EP entitled ‘Checkered Past.’  So exited…

 

  1. “Anything”- The opening track is a throwback to the ‘It Means Everything’ album. Monique sounds great here, as does the rest of this band in this skank-worthy tune.  I love it!  Grade: A

 

  1. “New Sound”- Save Ferris used this ditty to promote the new album and I can see why. Very clever to use Neville Staple of The Specials fame (an older ska band for you newbies) to promote this “new sound.”  The edginess is great and just as the name suggests, this does not sound like any other Save Ferris song to date.  Boo-yah!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Golden Silence”- Oh man!  Where’s my porkpie hat and 2-tone, wing-tipped Dr. Martens when I need them?  Get off your seat everyone and hit the dancefloor!   I also like the male vocals in this as well as the backing vocals.  Monique really belts it out as well.  Wow!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Do I Even Like You?” Instrumentally, this is another fantastic dancing tune.  For some reason the vocals were a bit off for me.  Instead of the normal upbeat Monique, this sounded like a Monique that has had maybe 1 to many to many to drink.  Still, this is a solid tune.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Goodbye Brother”- Alright, it’s time to slow it done. Featuring an excellent trumpet solo, “Goodbye Brother” is the perfect way to close out this near perfect EP.  Grade: A

 

Monique Powell was not the first women to lead a ska band.  She is however, one of my favorites and was the example for other females that have followed, even to this day (Sorry Gwen).  Unfortunately after only two albums, the great band that was Save Ferris parted ways and left us devoted fans to get our ska fix elsewhere.  Fast forward over 15 years later and boom, Monique is finally back.  After assembling a new lineup, Save Ferris is ready to hit the road again to promote their “new sound” and their new EP.  While I think anyone who is into ska will dig this album, this was a special treat for us long-time fans.  Aside from “Do I Even Like You” Monique still has the vocals chops.  Overall the rest of the band is peppy and upbeat and makes you want to skank to almost every song.  What was really great was the guest appearance by Neville as well as the female backing vocals.  This is just plain awesome.   I thought that I would never get to relive the live performance I saw at Warped Tour 1998.  I may now have my chance.  I hope this band will rise to the top once again and put out a full length album (or maybe a double album!) in the not too distant future.  Are you as excited as I am?  You should be…

 

Overall Grade: A

 

 

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

 

 

 

31. Askultura-“Older Sister”-Time for a good ol’ fashioned ska hoedown. Askultura brings to this compilation one of the most unique songs on this compilation.  If ska, bluegrass, a pirate and school-yard double-dutch had a baby, this is what is would sound like.    Grade: B-

32. Night Gaunts-“Trippin’ In the Basement”- sounding slightly like “Hiding in my Headphones from Reel Big Fish, “Trippin” blurs the lines of what most would consider ska.  Ska- at its core, yes, but elements of straight up rock and hip-hop are paired with wacky vocals.  I’m not sure I could listen to an entire album of songs like this, but I enjoyed this tune for what it was.  Grade: B+

33. Autnomads-“Headline”- The male vocals dropped my opinion of this song down a notch, but his female counterpart reminded me of many of the vocalists from my favorite gal groups of the 80’s (Bananarama, The Bangles, The Go-Go’s etc.) Instrumentally this is a straight up ska ditty.  This band shows promise and I can’t wait to check out some of their other stuff.  Grade: B+

34. The Mini Nukes-“Pound Shop Prostitute”- There aren’t a lot of 3-piece ska-infused bands that can pull it off. The Mini Nukes are no exception.  I was not a fan of the vocals and the constant changing of rhythms gave me musical whiplash.  Grade: D

35. Dance Contraption-“Open Road”- The ska band rolodex in my head is failing because these guys remind me of anther band, but I cannot put my finger on it. Feeling more like straight up rock then punk, all in all I liked this song.  Other than the need to polish things up a bit, this song is a winner.  Grade: B+

36. Johnny Kawalski and the Sexy Weirdos-“Tequila Song”- As previously mentioned, I’m not usually a fan of drinking songs, but this for some reason works. Maybe it is the light-hearted tone as opposed to the belligerent drunk nature of the other songs.  The Sexy Weirdos’ sound features elements of ska, but there is much more going on than that.  Their Facebook page describes their music as body-snatching carnival punk.  I would say this is an accurate description.  Grade: B

37. Public Serpents-“Get Right”- There was nothing wrong with the instrumentation in this fine example of ska-punk, but I could not get past the vocals.  Vocally, this sounded like Slapstick, but with more screaming.  Sorry, not my thing.  Grade: D-

38. Sea Serpent Tsunami-“Dance Rude Boy”-I really enjoyed the longer intro to this one, which built up my anticipation of what was to come. The vocals were not abrasive and the lone saxophone really created an edginess.  I was not a fan however of the gang vocals and awkward rhythm changes.  Overall a solid tune.  Grade: B

39. Bada Bings-“To Hell With Every T.V.”-When this song first started, it was your typical ska-infused punk number.  As the song played on I became more disinterested and bored.  Sorry guys.  Grade: C-

40. The UpFux-“Killjoy”- Upbeat, happy ska with whistling! Musically, this is certainly on par, but again, I’m not a huge fan of the vocals.  Grade: B-

 

C’mon everyone it’s time to ‘Sound the Alarm’

The long-running ska band that needs no introduction, Less Than Jake has recently released a new EP entitled ‘Sound the Alarm.’  Let’s push play…

 

  1. “Call to Arms”-Starting things out with Roger plucking the base, quickly turns into your typical LTJ tune, helmed by Chris on the mic. Although this is more on the poppier side and the horns are a little drowned out, this is a solid way to begin the album.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Whatever the Weather”- Playing more of a pivotal role than the previous track, the horn section is definitely front and center in this ditty. Roger rocks this tune, which is ready for immediate radio play.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Bomb Drop”-Not being able to decide who should sing on “Bomb Drop,” Chris and Roger spend equal time belting out lyrics. Once again, your standard LTJ fare, which is not a bad thing.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Welcome to My Life”- This next track is slightly slower than the previous three and leans more to the ska (vs. punk) side of things. While there is more rocking out around the 2/3 mark, this tune is just alright for me.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Good Sign”- Switching back to more of a punk with horns song, there is nothing new to the seasoned LTJ listener. That being said, they have all the ingredients for an enjoyable tune.   Grade: B+

 

  1. “Years of Living Dangerously”- I can’t put my finger on it but “Years of Living Dangerously” has a more mature sound, showing more depth than the rest of the album. I dig it!   Grade: A-

 

  1. “Things Change”- It’s easy to see why the boys used this song to promote the album. Featuring a horn line that will get stuck in your noodle, this is the best tune found on ‘Sound the Alarm.’  Two thumbs up.  Grade: A

 

The year was 1996.  This was the year that I purchased the compilation ‘Ska The Third Wave, Vol. 2’ and heard Less Than Jake for the first time.  Prior to this I had really only heard the up-tempo stylings of The Invaders and Mustard Plug (Big Daddy Multitude), so their punked up version of the ska genre was a real eye opener.  Shortly after this I purchased ‘Losing Streak’ and the rest is history.  Since then LTJ has pumped out a slew of albums, which have all been enjoyable in their own right. That brings us to their latest release, ‘Sound the Alarm.’  First of all what has always impressed me about this band is that after 20+ years as a band, their sound never sounds stale and there are no two songs that sound alike.  ‘Sound the Alarm,’ like many of their later albums has more of a polished sound then the days of ‘Pezcore’ and ‘Losers…’  What I really like about this album (as with most of their later stuff) is the sharing of vocals between Chris and Roger.  I am innately more drawn to Chris’s voice more, however, Roger adds a fun change of pace.  Musically there is really nothing new here if you have been listening to this band for any time.  This is a good thing!  Less Than Jake continues to surge on with the ska/punk brand they have honed over all of these years.  Crunchy punk guitars? Check.  Blaring catchy horn parts? Check!  As expected, due to the fact that there are only 7 tracks, there really are no filler songs.  I thoroughly enjoyed this entire album, which has filled the LTJ void until their next full length.  If you are already a fan of this band, purchasing this is a definite no-brainer.  If you are new to the ska/punk scene, this release (and/or any of their other releases) are a must have for your arsenal.

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

21. 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

22. 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-

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

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

25. 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

26. 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

27. The Pisdicables-“”Spooky”- Organs are found more with traditional ska bands and tend to be overlooked with the punkier bands.  The Pisdicables place the organs and raging horns as a pivotal part of their sound (at least in this song).  I dig it.  Grade: B

28. The Shop-“Jumbie Jamboree”- The Shop has not  re-invented traditional ska, but they certainly are close to perfecting it.  Sweet rocksteady grooves are found here with smooth vocals and an awesome horn solo.  Grade: A-

29. MC Lars-“Sublime With Rome (Is Not the Same Thing As Sublime)(Feat.Roger Lima of Less Than Jake & Suburban Legends)”- Poking fun at the  music industry and bands that continue rocking without key members, this all-star cast delivers one of the catchiest songs on this album.  A great ska anthem!  Grade: A

30. The Land Before Tim-“Charlene”- I’m not really sure what to make up this band.  The self-proclaimed skacore band from Chicago, has more of an up-tempo sound switching between raspy vocals and  traditional soulful singing.  This reminds me of a punked up version of 3 Minute Hero (from the Minneapolis area).  Grade: C-

 

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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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Check out ‘The Phonosonics’

Hey everyone, The Phonosonics have just released a new single, in which they have pressed onto green vinyl.  Let’s drop the needle on this one…

 

  1. “Between Two Headphone”- Smudging the line between traditional ska and reggae, this first track is a laid-back “stay in bed” kind of tune. Super soulful vocals with awesome range with the backdrop of a “tinny” guitar (or ukulele, I’m not sure).  Not overlooking any subtleties, The Phonosonics include a pinch of saxophone and just a tad of dub.  Great song!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Dark-Haired Lady”- The B side uses the same elements as mentioned on the first track(mellow saxophone and dub) this song is just as enjoyable as the first.  Another slower tune; this will not make you bang your head or skank in the pit, but rather soak up the methodical rocksteady beat and sweet vocals.  Grade: A

 

With a touch of old fashioned sound, The Phonosonics have released an extremely enjoyable single.  When I say The Phonosonics, I really mean Spencer Cleave, the mastermind behind this entire project.   Spencer recorded this single (the vocals and all of the instrumentation) in his basement.  Listening to the sound quality here, the aforementioned is truly an impressive feat.  Musically, each song was written with the basic ska/rocksteady framework, with much attention paid to detail.  The vocals are refreshing, taking me back to old soul or Motown.  This will be a definite no-go for the ska punk purists but those that dig older or traditional sounds, Spencer is your man.  I thoroughly enjoyed this release; it has wet my appetite for more.  A full length cannot come soon enough!

 

Overall Grade: A

 

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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

 

Threat Level Burgundy!

Calling Massachusetts their home, Threat Level Burgundy has released a new LP entitled “The Longest Day.”  Let’s check out the ska punk style of this 7-piece outfit which was born in 2008.  Here we go…

 

  1. “Dragons…”-As the name suggests, Threat Level Burgundy comes out roaring with “Dragons.” Style-wise, this sounds like something off of the “Engine of a Million Plots” album ala Five Iron Frenzy.  Although the singing is a bit cumbersome at some points, this is a pretty solid number.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Never Forgive”-Ska of the danceable variety is found in this next ditty. This tune features the same vocalist as the first in addition to another that sound a little like the lead singer from They Might Be Giants.    Grade: B

 

  1. “Never Forget”-Pick it up! After building momentum in the beginning part of the song, there is a quick transition to become the lightning fast ska I grew up on.  The horn section is a major stand-out here, making me want to jump off the couch and start skankin’!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Face Off”- Fantastic song-smithing is found in “Face Off.” My one critique here is that the harder style vocals didn’t quite go along with the otherwise fun, light-hearted tone of the rest of the song.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Caesar”- Raw punk guitar meets peppy, in your face horns in “Ceaser.” Once again this was a solid tune, which was down-graded due to some awkwardness with the vocals.  Grade: B

 

  1. “1-Up!”- I grew up on both Nintendo and Super Nintendo, so I totally dig the subject matter.  In addition, this is a great horn-driven rock number.  Love it!     Grade: A-

 

  1. “Calibrations”-Cue the gang vocals! Gritty street punk with horns, almost as if Rancid stole a brass section.    Grade: B+

 

  1. “Guest Check”- To be honest, this song is all over the place. The vocals are repetitious and do not mesh with the music. I did like the horns, however.  Grade: C

 

  1. “Christmas Cheer!”- Definitely the hardest Christmas song I have ever heard.  I’m not sure if will evoke much holiday spirit, but it will make you raise your rock fist high.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Kentucky Fried Clay (The Longest Day) – Dabbling with a softer pop-punk style (dare I say emo?) Threat Level Burgundy finishes with the best song on the entire album.  The horn section plays more of a backing role to the otherwise tender vocals.  Nice job guys.  Grade: A-

 

After almost 3 years of reviewing ska albums this was the first album that I felt like I almost needed to write two reviews; one for the instrumentation and another for the vocals.  Threat Level Burgundy’s “The Longest Day” has a lot going for it, from the classic punk guitar stylings to the blaring horn section.  The melodies to each song our distinct from the one before and will be difficult to get out of your head.  A lot here reminds me of up-tempo, brass driven bands that made me fall in love with ska in the first place.  You will find few who can match the musical quality found here.    For me the vocals were a different story.  As a personal preference, I did not care for either of the two vocalists voices.  Second, it seems as if the vocals were written without the instrumentation in mind many times, making some of the songs feels forced and that the vocals and instrumentation did not go together.  If it weren’t  for that fact, I would have given most of these songss and A rating.  With personal preferences aside, this is a pretty solid release which will find a nice home on the ska punk playlist on your iPod. Give these dudes a listen!

 

Overall Grade: B

 

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PART I (What Do You Know About Ska Punk? Vol. 1)

If you have not heard yet, there is a new ska compilation that features 135 songs.  What Do You Know About Ska Punk? Vol.1 is an ambitious undertaking.  We know there is quantity; now let’s see if there is quality as well. [I have decided to break up this review into 10 song increments with a full album review at the end]

 

  1. Bolshy-“Ignorance is Strength”- What starts out as a “slow burner” transitions into a brass chaos, in this highly danceable tune. The lead singer, known only as Molly according to the band’s Facebook page is both powerful and easy on the ears.  Great song!  Grade: B+

 

  1. Backyard Superheroes-“Tangerine Drive”- The Backyard Superheroes deliver what you’d expect from a ska punk song; bratty vocals, killer horns and crunchy guitars. The excellent guitar solos made up for me not being totally in love with the vocals.  Grade: B

 

  1. Beng Beng Coctail-“Fucking Rudeboy”- This is bare-bones ska song, with only a drum, a bass and an acoustic guitar. I really like the work done here on the acoustic, giving this tune some Latin flavor.  The vocals fell flat with me-it’s like everyone in the band got stoned before they started singing.  Grade: C-

 

  1. High School Football Heroes-“Life’s Hard (No One Gets Out Alive)”-Being more of a fan of pop punk rather than straight up punk, I really dig HSFH’s sound. The horn section is blaring and in your face, and the vocals are not abrasive like their straight up punk brethren.  I can’t wait to hear more from these guys!  Grade: A-

 

  1. Tef London-“Still Standing”- A female-fronted ska outfit with a big-band sound. What’s not to love?  I would classify this as more rock with horns, rather than punk, but this is an entertaining song none the less.  Grade: B

 

  1. Chilled Monkey Brains-“Note to Self”-If you’ve never heard of Chilled Monkey Brains before, I strongly urge you to check out their latest album. While I am not a huge fan of screaming and I prefer the more melodic voice of the backing vocalist (vs. the lead vocalist in this tune), these guys are probably the most inventive band in the ska scene right now.  Blending ska and thrash metal, Chilled Monkey Brains are truly unique.  Grade: B+

 

  1. 1592-“Hooligans”- Lead by brothers Eric and Jeremy Abbey, 1592 is more of a traditional ska/rocksteady group. Without using punk elements, this band can still pack a punch with their gritty take on the genre.  “Hooligan’’ is an up-tempo instrumental that will instantly turn you into a fan.  Grade: A

 

  1. Behind Deadlines-“Laid Off”-Pop-meets –punk- meets- ska. After just reviewing this entire album, this is the ska-punk anthem of 2016.  Fantastic song; fantastic album, from start to finish.  I love this band!  Grade: A+

 

  1. Bumpin Uglies-”Urination Citation”-Bumpin Uglies play the best version of what I have dubbed as “stoner rock” I have ever heard. This ditty features the classic ska guitar riff with gruffer style vocals.  I really enjoy Bumpin Uglies, but to be honest this is not my favorite song of theirs.  Check out their other stuff!  Grade: B

 

  1. Flying Raccoon Suit-“Proud”- I normally enjoy bands that feature both male and female lead vocals, but this was a little subpar for me.  The male lead was annoying to say the least.  Nothing else about the rest of the song really stood out either.  It’s difficult to judge a band from one song, so I would love to hear more from Flying Raccoon Suit.   Grade: B-

Saving (One of the) Best For Last!

Hailing from Philadelphia, PA Behind Deadlines has released a follow up to last year’s EP entitled ‘Status Quo.’  Let’s crank it up…

 

  1. “Biochemistry”-Status Quo opens up with the wonderfully crafted pop punk number. Although the horn section was a little muddled compared to the much louder guitar sounds, Behind Deadlines starts out on the right foot. Although subtle, the piano at the end is a nice touch.  Great song!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Sick Of It All”- Sounding vaguely familiar to “Bouncing Off the Walls” from Sugurcult, “Sick OF It All” starts out as a laid-back tune, and transitions into more of a rocking number. The horns here are front and center, both during the solos and while jamming with the rest of the band.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Laid Off”- Everything about “Laid Off” is catchy as hell. Sure it’s the classic ska guitar riff you’ve heard 1000 times, but everything here works perfectly.  I know I’m only three tracks in, but I’m predicting this to be the best ska song of 2016!  Grade: A+

 

  1. “Hey Dear Friend”- When Behind Deadlines sets the bar high from the get-go, it’s difficult to make the other songs stand out. Once again, I really enjoyed this tune featuring an excellent guitar solo.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Making Change”- Put on your checkered Vans, because this Is a skankin’ song if ever there was one. Once again, staying with the pop-punk-ska formula has paid off for this group of talented gents.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Six Months”- Instead of a big brass (or woodwind) attack, Behind Deadlines starts things off with a lone saxophone, before being joined by the rest of the band. Along with “Laid Off” this tune could be found on more mainstream media and do extremely well.  More “tender” than the previous tunes, “Six Months” sounds like emo with horns to me.  Love it!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Sink or Swim”- With ever-changing melodies, there is a lot going on this this stereotypical punk ska number. This is a fresh approach to the often overdone 90’s third wave sound.  Nice job!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Optimism”- With a slightly awkward transition at the: 29 mark, this song rocks harder than the previous seven. This stated, this band pays attention to details like vocal harmonization and excellent trombone solos.  Wow!   Grade: A

 

  1. “Worthless”- Taking cues from Reel Big Fish, and doing a little trash-talking of their own, Behind Deadlines drop a fun little party tune with “Worthless.” Grade: B+

 

  1. “Escape From Philadelphia”- Although this contains the same great vocals, and instrumentation as the rest of the album, for some reason, I had to warm up to this one. Grade: A-
  2. “Drinking to Brazil”- A ska album wouldn’t be complete without a drinking song. Although I’m not a big fan of this kind of song, this is done extremely well, with its Irish pub feel. A nice closer.  Grade: B+

 

 

Pop-punk had it’s heyday in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and many listened.  Behind Deadlines actually took notes.  In my last review of 2015’s ‘Before Summer Ends’ EP, I compared these guys to several bands from this era (such as Bowling For Soup, Good Charlotte, etc.).  This comparison quickly rushed to the front of my mind after listening to only a few minutes of ‘Status Quo.’  Musically, there are similarities, for sure, but the most obvious sticking point is the quality of the lead singer’s (Zach Brooks) voice.  This is not meant as a dig at all.  When everyone else in the punk world is trying to sound the loudest, gruffest, most aggressive, a band that leans more toward the poppier side of things is a definite breath of fresh air.   Every song here is crafted to near perfection with not a slouch in the bunch.  Some bands are better song-writers than others and I would rank these guys near the top.  While they do not feel an excessive need to swear (I don’t think I heard any cursing on this album), in addition, most songs are written to where I think they would have appeal to those other than avid ska fans.  It is a rare treat be able to listen to an entire album all the way through and enjoy it as much as I did Status Quo.  While the ‘senior citizens of ska’ Reel Big Fish, and Less Than Jake show no signs of hanging it up anytime soon, Behind Deadlines are could fill (and possibly overfill) their shoes.  After reviewing albums all year, I can honestly say that ‘Status Quo’ is one of my favorites.  What are you waiting for?  Check these guys out!!

 

 

Overall Grade: A

 

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