GODZILLA - Four Hot Shots Alive
Tape - 1997 Self-released
review by megan
Ah - the sweet sounds of Swedish ska. The ska that seems to predominate in Europe is the missing link in the music's progression. Whereas the U.S. sound jumps from 2tone derivations to ska-punk seemingly overnight, those wacky Europeans are churning out a sound that springs off of 2tone, hearkens back to 1st wave, & adds that extra something that makes it ska for today.
The music of Godzilla is no exception. This 4-song tape, recorded live and in Swedish, combines all the waves of ska, in one way or another, and quickens the tempo. It's music made for dancing, and (if I only knew Swedish) singing along.
The tape begins with "Intro", which itself starts with a dark, pounding drum & bass beat (think Godzilla himself stomping into Tokyo), before jumping into a great upbeat instrumental. Song two is "Bimbo", an even quicker number that draws more on the 2tone sound than anything else. The bonus is that to the American ear, the female singer sounds for all the world like Jabba the Hutt's lounge singer in Return of the Jedi. The instrumental 3rd song, "Yes I'm Rocking", turns towards traditional with good results, giving each member of the band a chance to showcase. And then it's on to the last song, "Go Away", a tune that could pass as an old Selecter tune (and in English no less - a cover perhaps?).
Covering "the area between the sixties and the nineties" (as the band puts it on their web page), Godzilla is good fun and good music, all to a quick upbeat. If you're looking to expand your music horizons past the U.S. shores, Four Hot Shots Alive is a good bet for your buck.
To order or to contact the band, visit their website.
GREENHOUSE - Tomorrow the World
CD - 1998 Jump Up! Records
review by megan
The best part of Greenhouse's Tomorrow the World is the liner notes. Their "Ska Fun Facts" are hysterically funny (ex. "Ted has promised that if we sell out, he will OD on heroin, thereby reaffirming our street cred and causing our Unplugged CD profits to soar"). If only the lyrics were this good.
One song is actually. The last track on the album, "Super Trendy Retro World", takes sharp aim at the new retro revival (it's a swing/ska tune) and the unoriginality of today's youth culture. But the rest of the album is wanting. The vocals are generally weak and the lyrics middling to bad (for instance: "I plant my seed in her soil/I lost so much sweat in my toil/But no matter how hard I try/That old womb of hers is dry/She's my barren woman"). The music ranges from okay to good, but is often mismatched with the vocal lines ("Too Late"). When the vocals and music meet up, as in "Sterile" or "Fire Escape", the lyrics are so lightweight that the song is ruined. And the band gets huge points off for cribbing Jesus Christ Superstar in "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" for no reason whatsoever.
Basically, Tomorrow the World is standard, musically okay, 3rd wave fare. The reason I'm being so harsh on the album is that I'm disappointed. The liner notes show that the band has a brain, a sense of humor, and a purpose. I'd take their DIY and sarcasm over goofy lyrics like "The line is long and I'm parched from thirst/I need H20 or I'm gonna burst".
HIGHBALL HOLIDAY - Self-titled
CD - 1997 Moon/Ska Satellite Records
review by megan
Highball Holiday was responsible for "Poetry in Motion", one of my favorite songs on Moon's Skarmaggedon3 CD. With it's 2-Tone sound the song was different from most of the ska (trad & punk) that I'd been hearing lately. Happily, the same can be said about Highball Holiday's self-titled album.
Highball Holiday's approach to traditional ska seems to be very much grounded in jazz & soul. Not being well-versed in either form, I can't tell you whether they play the style well, but I can tell you that they make great ska out of it. There is a nice variety of sound, tempo, and style on the album, from the upbeat "Poetry in Motion" and "Wake Up Call" to the laid back traditionalism of "South Africa" or "First That Crosses". Two of the 13 tracks are dub versions of 2 other songs (as well as one hidden track). While I personally preferred the original songs, I have to give the band credit for following a long tradition and trying something different.
Highball Holiday's other talent is lyrics. Not only is it nice to hear female voices, its damn refreshing to hear lyrics that aren't self-referential or about getting girls. Many of the songs come across as decent poetry, effectively using images & metaphors to convey meaning. "I've got an angel in my pocket and it's burning a hole, a demon on my conscience stealing souls" the band sings in "Multiple Personality Disorder", and even the straight-ahead "Wake Up Call" gets its message across without the lyrics getting dumb.
Not being a traditionalist, I was surprised at how much I liked Highball Holiday. This is definitely one of those bands that crosses the genre divisions in ska, providing quality tunes for everyone.
THE INDESTRUCTIBLES - 20 Penny Nail
CD - 1999 BIB Records
review by megan
Swingy 3rd wave ska from Rhode Island, 20 Penny Nail nice to listen to, without being outstanding. The songs are catchy and a little different, and the album grows on you the more you listen to it. Unfortunately, so do the problems with it, mainly that the songs are just too long. This makes a catchy tune like "Shut Up and Drink Your Jo" or a sly seduction like "Perfect Order" turn repetitive and eventually, boring. It's that kind of musical overkill that does in "People Grow Up", a slow, sweet song, and the best on the album, both lyrically and vocally.
Which brings us to the second problem with the Indestructibles - the vocals. My initial reaction to the overtly nasally sound of "Don't Hate Me" was a high level of annoyance. This lessened the more I listened to 20 Penny Nail, but it points out a greater problem. Lead singer Tom Kutcher has a wide range of unusual vocal styles, which he uses throughout the album, to both positive ("People Grow Up") and negative ("20 Penny Nail") effect. I'd like to see the match between music, vocals, and lyrics be stronger throughout the album, or future albums.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to 20 Penny Nail, but I doubt it will be finding its way back into my CD player anytime soon. But would I want to hear more from the Indestructibles? Definitely.
INSPECTER 7 - The Infamous...
CD - 1997 Radical Records
review by megan
I've been waiting 3 years for this day, and I did not wait in vain. The Infamous..., Inspecter 7's first full-length release (I believe) both captures the energy of the band & finally lets the fans take home the best of the band on one CD - "Spy Front", "Hub City Stompers", "Regret", "Agent 86"- they're all here. Every I7 song has energy, something lacking from a lot of music today, but that's not all they've got. Well-written, socially conscious lyrics ("Brother vs. Brother"), great musicianship, a horn section that doesn't sound like they just got out of high school band ("Spy Front"), and 2 excellent front men put Inspecter 7 at the head of the pack of 3rd wave bands. They also have range, playing laid back traditional like "Cookin'" just as well as go-for-the-jugular speed songs like "Sharky 17" (or both in one shot, as "Channel 7" and "Popeye" demonstrate). Best of all their sound, which draws off all the waves of ska at one point or another, is different from much of the new stuff out today. Fast, but not ska punk, skin but not oi, traditional but not slow, Inspecter 7 gives 90's ska a kick.
Like their live shows, there's hardly a pause between songs, and even alone in a room your feet begin to move. While no album is a match for Inspecter 7 live, The Infamous comes damn close.
INSPECTER 7 - "Agent 86/See Ya"
7" - 1997 Moon Records
review by johnny fantastic
The long awaited release from a band that has for a while toiled (and wrongfully so) forgotten on the NY scene while many lesser bands around them were snatched up by the indies. Why this was the case is uncertain, but this 7" is long overdue. From the first time I saw them, Inspector 7 has been one of my favorite live acts. While ska crowds have been saturated with "questionables" lately, the Inspector 7 audience is still largely the truer group that used to dominate the dance floor just two years ago. Live, hard rhythms and skinhead (gasp!) attitude pound the dancing fever into you, and suprisingly, this energy does indeed transfer onto vinyl. The tracks are mixed well, and the simple horn lines counter the vocals nicely. Buy one for you, and one for a friend.
Want More Reviews?