Backyard Superheroes

© 2014
Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

backyard_superheroesI wonder if Mustard Plug ever thought in a million years that they would be “influential”? Well, I guess if you have a long enough career and enough exposure, you’re bound to influence somebody, right? Well, welcome to that somebody They go by the name Backyard Superheroes.

To be fair, there’s a number of influences that can be heard on the new self-titled album from Brunswick, NJ ska band, Backyard Superheroes. On casual listening there’s elements of Less Than Jake, Streetlight Manifesto, a reminiscence to an old Oregon band, The Varicoasters (who probably didn’t influence this band at all, so it’s some other common influence), and of course a heavy dose of Mustard Plug.

Don’t let me mislead you though. The band isn’t a clone. They are a current interpretation and perhaps amalgam of 3rd wave ska punk. I for one applaud it. I loved this music in my youth. I love it today.

The album of concern here, Backyard Superheroes, the first full length (second album) by the band of the same name, drops 14 tracks of fun loving 90s throwback ska punk. The songs are all quick paced, quirky and largely delivered with a tongue-in-cheek speak/sing-a-long style. The horn section meshes nicely with the distorted guitar and walking bass lines, just like it is supposed to. Beyond that, I’d suggest that this is a solid fun release. I would seriously confuse this with 90s era Ska if I didn’t know better.

Aside being from Jersey, I don’t know a whole lot about the band specifics. However, based on their bio that they are professed to be loud, and, well, that’s good enough for me. You can catch a sampling of their sounds here: http://www.reverbnation.com/backyardsuperheroes I suggest that you do.

–Jerry Actually

Mad Caddies – Dirty Rice

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

© 2014 Fat Wreck Chords

mad_caddies_dirty_riceI apologize for not having this review up before the official release date Tuesday, May 13th, but I suppose if you can wait seven years for a new Mad Caddies release, a late review isn’t going to concern you in the least. So, if you did not read the prior sentence, there’s a new Mad Caddies album. Fresh off the presses, once again on (the now venerable) Fat Wreck Chords, I present to you Dirty Rice!

First things first, though. If you’re aren’t familiar with The Mad Caddies, let me give you a brief back story. The band started back in their high school days, way back in 1995 in Solvang, CA (Santa Barbara County). Over their illustrious career, the band have produced multiple full-length recordings and E.Ps. Their sound, while very firmly footed in 3rd wave ska-punk has influences from wide ranging styles including, dixieland, polka, swing, reggae, jazz, punk, and traditional ska. What I’m saying is that you get a whole lot of flavor from this one sweet band. I digress; back to the review.

The new album is a nicely polished example of what a 3rd wave SoCal ska band can do after close to two decades of rocking. For those who are familiar with Mad Caddies at all, youl know that while they come correct, they don’t come traditional. They’ve definitely got their own brand going; This album is no exception. A fine mixture of ska, punk, ragtime, dixieland, and soul are well represented on the new album, though sometimes on a more subtle note. It reminds me a little bit of Stay Tuned by Let’s Go Bowling, another awesome record that is a departure from prior work, yet completely badass after you succumb to its charms.

12 new tracks. Mad Caddies are back. Get the album. Find them on Tour!

–Jerry Actually

The Skashank Redemption – To Victory!

© 2013
Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

SkashankCoverI miss the days of 3rd wave ska. I’m pretty sure that any other fun lovin’, skankin’, also liken punk sorta folks feel the same. Well I’ll be damned if life doesn’t sometimes provide it’s own time machine, ‘cause ska (in a decidedly 3rd wave variety) is making its rounds again.

I’m listening to “To Victory!” the new E.P. by The Skashank Redemption (not to be confused with The Skaskank Redemption … I know, confusing, right?) but I digress. These boys, Skashank, not Skaskank are from the bustling, 14th largest city in the USA, Columbus, OH. Maybe there’s something about the midwest? The beer, the weather, the sassy ladies? There’s something that brings out the pep in the horns, the plink of the strings and the silly antics of high number of member bands.

Enough of that though, To Victory! makes good with six tracks of solid ska. Among other influences, The Skashank Redemption sound reminds me so much of Spring Heeled Jack (USA) yet without coming off as derivative or posing. They’ve got plenty of their own spin in the mix. The songs are peppy and danceable and well polished. There’s an effort being put forth by the musicians that shines through in the recording. It takes a lot of talent to coordinate a seven member band with the level of precision that To Victory! provides. To that I say cheers and keep on skankin’

The only detractor for me are a bit too much of the joke banter. Some folks may like it. I’m not a fan. That aside, a solid release.

Bottom line is that if you’ve not been getting your fill of fresh ska, head on over and check out The Skashank Redemption over on their page here: https://www.facebook.com/theskashankredemption

Cheers,
Jerry Actually

After the Fact – Limit Break

(c) 2014
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

atf coverFlorida has been a stronghold for ska punk since the mid 90’s. Just check out the “Closer Than You” compilations that were released in ’96 and ’98 if you need proof. Florida ska band After The Fact fights to keep this legacy alive with their freshman release titled “Limit Break”.

The overall sound of the album is decidedly ska with heavy elements of punk, some screamo, and metal thrown in for good measure. Opening the record is “Sick as a Dog” which starts with guitar that immediately makes me think of MU330 and their big tune “LA”. The difference in this song, however, is that it soon kicks it up a notch with Reel Big Fish-style horn breaks, and Bosstones-esque vocals.

Lyrics are well written and songs are structured really well around the vocals. Clean backing vocals are everywhere on this album and if you’re anything like me you catch yourself singing along with them more than the main lines more often than not. The tune “Take a Hint” is a perfect example of the call-and-answer between the primary vocal line and gang vocals + horns that ATF does really well. There are some really sick guitar solos that blew me away and the layered harmonies made them even better.

With all of the good that’s in this album, there are some areas for improvement. Vocal performances sometimes seem pushed to their limits, horn blend is off regardless of solid performance by the players, themselves, and while listening through the CD I could occasionally hear the trademark click that can happen with digital editing.

With stand out songs like “Ridiculous” and “Last Fight”, ATF might just be going places if they continue to polish their sound. As someone who listens to a lot of ska (probably more than I should), I really enjoyed hearing all the influences that these guys have. I suggest you go like them on Facebook (at https://www.facebook.com/atffla) and check out if they’re playing a show near you.

THE TL;DR is..

After the Fact’s freshman album “Limit Break” scored 7/10 with me. The songs are killer and well written. The members are talented and bring some great moments to the album. That said, there are some recording issues that hold this back from being really top notch.

-Joe Ska

The Big Ska Gamble

(c) 2013 Grandpa’s Casino

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

big_ska_gambleHere’s a little slice of magic for you ska fans out there: Seven 7” records. Seven artists. Seven flavors of ska.

A bad ass little box set of vinyl featuring: The Shifters, The Action League, Lockstep, The Georgetown Orbits, Do It With Malice, Stop The Presses, Sammy K & The Los East 3, and Jorge & The Landladies.

If you’re a fan of ska, reggae, calypso, northern soul, and more, do yourself a big ol’ favor and get a hold of one or more of these records. I promise that you won’t be disappointed. (for the record, if you are disappointed afterwards, I’m sorry. Maybe you need to reevaluate your listening ability.) The range on this collection is impressive. I don’t like to pigeonhole bands, but fans, of DHC, Buck-0-Nine, and The Pietasters ought to find some major enjoyment here.

It’s often a challenge to review a compilation. That’s true now. What I’d like to impart is that this is music, this is real. There are bands out there giving their all for you. I think it’d be kind of you to give it a listen.

The takeaway is this. Ska! (and really good ska, at that) So cheers to your ears! Enjoy! Need I say more? ok, I will. In the words of Ryan Lewis, “This is fucking awesome!”

–Jerry Actually

Find out for yourself:
http://www.bigskagamble.com
http://grandpascasino.com