Thumper – Songs from the Grave

(c)1998 Jump Up Records
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The first impression that I got from this CD was the same as the final impression that it left me with–mediocre. Though this CD was recorded 8 and 7 years earlier than released, it is very possible that they have improved dramatically in their respective projects if at all. There is no place in the insert where you can find out just who is playing what and when (quite possibly for a reason.) This is a combination of two previously released discs, Rabbit Wreaking Havoc (1991) and Another Day (1993.) Thumper just may be Steve Vai does Ska. Definitely a metal overtone to a majority of these songs. The vocalist seems to be struggling a good amount of the time, and the guitars seem to me to be very, very metal (Call me crazy but I like ugly distortion or straight clean guitars.) Their horn section sounds like it just may have been recruited from the local high school’s second chair (although there are a few good arrangements.) As an added bonus, some drunk guy managed to stumble on this CD and scratched the hell out of it making it impossible to review songs 11 through 18. Thanks, but I think I’ll pass on this one.

–Phil Lousy


Deal’s Gone Bad – Overboard

(c) 1999 Jump Up Records
Rating: ★★★½☆

Ahoy Ahoy!, These guys are great! they make me happy when ever I listen. “Overboard” the newest offering by Chicago’s Deal’s Gone Bad is an exceptional piece of work. It’s got everything I require in a heavy personal rotation 3rd wave Ska CD. There’s bouncing beats, pumping keys, tasteful vocals and great horns and a touch ‘o comedy ala track 10 “Shiver Me Timber” With a reverence to the past and multi-pint toast to the future Deal’s gone bad puts forth a fresh offering into a recently sagging Ska scene. (notice the journalist like cheesy quotable quip…) never the less, I like this CD a lot and the more I listen to it the more I like it. Remember to go to your local shows too, If you don’t support the shit that you like it will go away.

–Jerry Actually


Continue reading Deal’s Gone Bad – Overboard

The Aggrolites

Back in Studio for Fourth Album
Open for Michael Franti & Spearhead
Selected to Join Flogging Molly’s Green 17 Tour

“The Aggrolites are one of the most unique bands out there today. In an era where way too many groups sound the same, it’s nice to have a group that is like a breath of fresh air. Their tunes can turn any bad day into a good one and their lyrics will have you singing along in no time.” – Quinnipiac Chronicle (Oct. 2008)

The Aggrolites have returned to the studio to craft their fourth full-length album and follow-up to the acclaimed Reggae Hit L.A. (Hellcat Records). Recording at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles, and scheduled for release in May 2009, the new album is guaranteed to deliver even more of their signature hard-hitting, soul-infused reggae.

The Aggrolites join socially conscious roots rockers Michael Franti & Spearhead at the new Club Nokia at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles on January 31. Poet, musician and composer, Franti blends hip-hop, funk and reggae together with his outspoken political and progressive lyrics, and has gone on to become a worldwide million-selling artist and a leader in the peace and social justice movement. This show is part of Michael Franti & Spearhead’s 2009 Hey World Tour in support of All Rebel Rockers (Anti- Records), their first Top 40 album. This is the debut pairing of these two truly progressive bands with equally diverse and devoted fan bases.

Continue reading The Aggrolites

Sorry About Your Couch – Greeen!

(c) 2008 Sorry About Your Couch
Rating: ★★★★☆

In a world where you bust your ass somewhere around 20/7 (a fella’s got to sleep sometime) you occasionally get the reviews out a little late. I have a serious stack of material in my inbox, so without further adieu, here is Sorry About You Couch. Hailing from the darkest depths of Central Wisconsin and the home of Point Special Beer comes some rude young lads and their new album Greeen! (Though the mailing address on the back is listed as Wisconsin Dells they claim to be from Stevens Point) No matter which place they are from, I spent plenty of my youth in both of those towns and though it was many years ago, I never expected much out of either area musically. Fortunately for me, time or fate has intervened and saw fit to send this disc to my door. SAYC is a raw blend of punk and roots. Frankly they remind me of Rudiments. The sound is a bit on the lofi side, but the raw nature of the tracks only serves to amplify the angst of youth. But what you get is 14 tracks and a bonus one. Running from raw rock to ska punk while trading verses like throwing around the ol’ pigskin, Greeen! makes for a good listen. Incidentally, with an album name like this, I really expected more overt stoner-rasta content. Not that is absent mind you, I just expected more. On another note, there is a cuddly green monster on the cover that appears to be destroying Toronto. I’d like to provide a slightly more in depth analysis, however I am beat. Sufficed to say that if you like the 3rd wave a bit more to the punk side then odds are fair you’ll like Sorry About Your Couch.

–Jerry Actually

Star Fucking Hipsters – Until We’re Dead

(c) 2008 Fat Wreck Chords
Rating: ★★★★½

Crack Rock Steady sound is back with yet another incarnation. This time that familiar societal lash back is tempered with the addition of some ladies. Don’t let the kinder, gentler sound fool you. For all of its additional polish and melody, Star Fucking Hipsters may be the most subversive of the crack rock stead bands yet. SFH currently consists of the following lineup: Sturg Fuckin’ Hipster – Vocals/Guitar, Nico De Gaillo – Vocals, Frank Piegaro – Guitar/Bass, Yula Beeri – Bass, Ara Slack – Drums. Until We’re Dead contains 12 full tracks and an intro. Alternating male/female vox and some silky smooth harmonies over top of a death grip of worldly angst help to solidify the album as plenty high up on my list of currently favorites. So, please do enjoy.

–Jerry Actually

The Waffle Stompers – Black on Black

(c) 2008 The Waffle Stompers
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lets hear it once again for New Jersey. From the state that gives you Catch 22 and Streetlight Manifesto, may I present The Waffle Stompers. This seven piece outfit–straight outta New Brunswick–brings an infectious blend of ska and punk that makes me wax nostalgic for the 3rd wave. Sounding like a Thomas Kalnoky protoge with a mix of old LTJ, Black on Black is a fun, albeit short, walk through the ska punk park. This is the band’s 3rd EP since 2005 and though I don’t have any reference to the prior material, I really like what I’m hearing on the new release. On another continual note, bands that both rock and rock for fun and unity are all good in my book. Head on over to their myspace page and buy some of their stuff, ok. The Waffle Stompers

–Jerry Actually

Chris Murray Combo – Why So Rude

(c) 2008 Unstrictly Roots
Rating: ★★★★★

If you’ve been reading the reviews on !upstarter for any length of time, you would realize by now that I’m a big fan of Chris Murray. Ever since I saw him open for Skavoovie and the Epitones and Less Than Jake in Lawrence, KS ages ago (1996 maybe?), I’ve been hooked. Time has seen several new releases since the 4-Track Adventures of Venice Shoreline Chris, each of which has been rock solid in its own way. Why So Rude is no exception.

If anything Chris Murray, now as a three piece combo, is more solid than ever. The new release is a culmination of time spent playing as CMC over the last few years and newly recorded versions from the Chris Murray and King Apparatus back catalog. The band consists of Ben Farrar on percussion/backing vocals, Eddie “Chiquis” Lozoya on bass/backing vocals and Chris Murray on vocals/guitar. Frankly all three of these guys bust out the stops at their respective musical posts. The bass is smooth and rolling. The symbol hits are second to none, and the vocals compliment the songs like a glove to a hand. Though this is a slightly different lineup than when I last saw the CMC. Bass duties were once upon a time performed by Jeff Roffredo, but that was a few years back.

None the less Why So Rude lays down 13 tracks: some new, some old, all good. Personal Favorites include the opener: I need Water and the title track: Why So Rude. The cover of Maga Dog and the re-recording of Michael and Anne are top notch as well. If you like your Ska, Roots and Reggae full of genuine soul, compelling song writing, sincere vocals and subtle harmonies, do check out the Chris Murray Combo. You shan’t be disappointed.

–Jerry Actually

Buck-O-Nine – Sustain

(c) 2007 Asian Man Records
Rating: ★★★★☆

I got the increasingly rare opportunity to attend a Buck-O-Nine CD release show last Saturday at their, and my newly re-adopted, hometown stomping grounds. The show was at The Casbah, a downtown San Diego ska friendly staple. It is a great little venue, perfect for intimate shows with your favorite bands and the 24oz. cans of PBR aren’t stupid expensive. As a bonus for attending the show, every ticket holder received a copy of Sustain, their first new release in seven years. For fans of Buck-O-Nine, you wont be disappointed. As far as I’m concerned the disc is an instant ska classic. The songs are tight. The horns hit. They can hold muster to a couple adult beverages and remain dance-able. The shout along choruses are intact. If you are new to ska, (wow that cave must have been crazy dark and quiet all these years) dig into their back catalog. There is more good stuff to be had. What more can I say about the disc other than it is a great piece of work from one of my favorites and now on one of my favorite labels too. For those that didn’t get to attend the show. Buck-O-Nine was opened by another local ska act, The Lifters. They too put on a great show. Check ’em out if you have a chance.

–Jerry Actually

Chris Murray- Slackness

(c) 2007 Unstrictly Roots
Rating: ★★★★☆

I have to start by telling you that I've been anticipating this release for quite some time and because I'm a fan, this may come across as a bit biased.  For the unaware among us, Slackness is a collaborative project between Chris Murray and The Slackers.  I'll have to admit I was taken a bit by surprise with Slackness.  I wasn't sure what to expect, so let me tell you what I got.  12 great tracks of the heart and soul of ska.  The recording offers up a smorgasboard of ska reggae and roots, some old and some new.  Slackness starts with a great cover of "Janie Jones" and into a more traditional Chris sounding track that appears to be co-written with Dan Potthast of Mu330 fame. (admittedly I'm assuming here based on the writing credits.)  The CD continues into a few remakes of older Chris songs with the added twist of being backed by The Slackers, one of the hardest working bands in ska today.  I particularly enjoy "Rastaman Rock", a tuffed up version of the original.  The tracks close with a ironically upbeat war protest song entitled, "Why We Go To War".  I guess this is like the magical moment when someone got their peanut butter on someone else's chocolate.  If you've ever wondered what Chris would sound like backed up by a full band of the caliber of the Slackers, give Slackness a whirl.  Out now on Unstrictly Roots  In closing, you can tell that Chris Murray is totally OG … Check that freakin' bling homie!

–Jerry Actually

Satori – Savor Every Moment

(c) 2005 Asian Man Records
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Comprised of the Rx Bandits with guest spots by Chris Murray and members of The Exit, is the outfit known as Satori. “Savor Every Moment” is their debut album out now on Asian Man Records. I insist that you do, in fact, savor every moment of this CD. All the elements of Dub, Rock Steady Reggae and Ska are artfully combined to create a soulful and soothing record. I’ve listened to “Savor Every Moment” about 4x in a row now and I’m still interested and still discovering new hooks and melodies. There are striking similarities to Sublime and Long Beach Dub All-stars. However, where as the aforementioned bands seem a little locked into 1 style, Satori runs the gambit of Jamaican musical styles as well as displaying R&B influences. The songs often recall the likes of Skatalites and early Wailers, yet infused with modern tones and beats, an dI’m not kidding when I say that these guys have some serious Stevie influence. “Savor Every Moment” is a beautifully restored classic car, refined with modern luxury appointments. Truly a must have disc for all fans of Jamaican music. As a bonus, check out the bands website for an audio stream of the first 3 tracks off of the CD.

–Jerry Actually