The Slackers have been around for quite some time now and have have remained quite proficient with both music quality and line up and seem to grow in popularity with every new album. This album is their latest after a long, long wait since their brilliant "The Question" album was released in 1998 (not counting the "Live At Ernestos" album). This release shows the Slackers exploring new sounds as well as keeping to the formula of what they do the best.
As usual to the Slackers, most of the tracks were written by singer/keyboardist Vic Ruggiero with some as colaborations with sax player Dave Hillyard. The disc opens, though, with the title track written by Marcus Geard. His song has a sort of slow R&B sound with some rocksteady mixed in. The lyrics are pretty cleaver for the most part with the same sort of bite that Vic has in his lyric writting, and the song is a nice opener.
"Henderson Swamp" is the next track and though its alright, its not really a high point of the disc. This mainly has to do with the vocals. The musicianship is of high quality though with a nice sounding reggae beat and Agent Jay guesting on lead guitar. "Please Decide" is a fun song for seeing them live but it loses its charm on the recording with QMaxx handling the lead vocals and an annoying swingy/bluesy/ska beat and then the unrelentless ending. Dave Hillyard does get a nice sax solo during this songs though.
The Slackers take a shot at dub with the fourth track "Pets of the World" which has trumpet player Jeremy "DJ Mush1" Mushlin returning to toast over this track. The dub is done very well with Marcus and Luis holding down the rhythm with their bass and drums and Vic's organ keeping the reggae rhythm. The horns and guitar are both echoed in and out of the mix very effectivly by former Upsetter organist Glen Adams. This song is one of the highlights of the record in my opinion. Their attempt at dub is repeated just as effectivley on the instrumental track "Tales of the Mongoose" which is not a full out dub track but is a nice roots reggae instrumental with some echoy effects thrown as well as a echoed out organ solo in the end courtesy once again of Glen Adams.
"Daves Friend" is another real high spot on the record. This song was released via MP3 a couple months before the record was released so this song became like the unofficial single, and it was a very good place to start from. This song features outstanding lyrics by Vic telling the story of trying to help out a friend straighten out his life and the friend not appreciating it, or taking it as vic giving him a hard life. The lyrics are very good as is the whole of the song which feature country western styled slide guitar by Dave Graboff as well as violins by Regina Bellantese. A great song through and through.
The sixth song on the record is another good one, "This Is The Night". The Slackers handle the track very nicely and give it a sort of ska and reggae mixed rhythm and Vic sings about "love is my cancer". Good song that brings back memories of their sound on "The Question".
One other thing I found to be pretty good about this album was the inclusion of "Sermon" which they are known for doing live. Though "Sermon" itself shouldnt have been put on the album (its just Marq preaching about the church of slack with Vic playing church style organ in the background), what the song suddenly leads into is a awesome ska song "The Nurse" that is done is a perfect style to those ska songs of the 60's with nice horn lines by Dave Hillyard and Glen Pine. "The Nurse" is a great example of the Slackers brand of straight up ska and it seems to be their opener these days (a perfect opening in my opinion) for their live shows. Great song.
"Old Days" is another good song with a really nice melody and sweet horn solos by Dave and Glen where at some moments they seem to be competing against each other. The lyrics are hung in that slacker harmony of Vics rough lead and Marks off key backing and it really makes the song.
Glen takes over on lead vocals on "Midnight Rendevous" and shows he still has that nice calypso sounding voice he had on his "Mountainside" tune on "The Question". The song is pretty good but not a favorite.
"Easy" is the same style of ska as "The Nurse" though not quite as good of a song, maybe because of the growling backing vocals. The song is good and has some nice sounds on Vics keys as well as the horn section. The lyrics are pretty good but the backing vocals take away from the song quite a bit in my opinion.
"Easy" leads us to "Walking On" which is a pretty good sounding song with a pretty good lead guitar by Simon Chardiet. The sound on this is a ska and its good some good lyrics about Vic questioning his place inb the world and is a nice song to listen to. Dave gets a nice solo in this one as well.
The most unusual song on this record is their cover of Bon Jovi's (who woulda thought that name would be mentioned on a ska page) "Wanted Dead Or Alive". The song was origionally covered for a comp of ska bands covering metal songs called Metalliska and Dave has insisted in interviews that it was done strictly for money, but the song here is given a pretty nice reggae rhythm with Vic's keyboard leading the song along.
"Information Error" this has a kind of soul guitar and horns over the rhythm with some organ and dub sound effects thrown in the background. The song is pretty good. It sounds like Vic is singing harmony to his own lead also and Marq isnt really heard on this track (which isnt a bad thing). This song is a nice ending place for the album as it has a kind of slow tempo and a nice feel.
All in all, a great fourth album by The Slackers. They released a limited edition LP with unreleased versions of the songs as well as new songs and dub versions as a companion to this album to be sold only at shows. Me being a dumb ass (or being broke at the time), I didn't buy it both times they played down here in Southern California this year. But the Slackers are a great band and its no surprise they one of the most popular ska bands out right now.
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