Easy*Life Ska Reviews
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THE KINGPINS - Let's Go To Work
CD - 1999 Moon Records/Stomp Records
review by sharky

The Kingpins brand of '60's pop infused with ska is excellent and their sound reminds me of The Scofflaws. Every song is fun without being goofy, and bouncy without being circusy. It's 46 minutes worth of quality that will leave you wanting more.

The first track, "King of the Jungle," could be considered to be the modern companion piece to Jimmy Cliff's "King of Kings," sans the biblical message. However, if it is biblical references that you are looking for, the track "Lot's Wife" is a crowd pleaser complete with Lorraine Muller's brassy vocals and a build up in the beginning of the song which is reminiscent of Dion's "Runaround Sue". "Dr. Haledjian Got Married" sounds like a groovy theme to some cheesy '60's spy movie, complete with spooky bass line, blaring brass section, and Paddy Walsh's barking vocals. Also, The Kingpins do an especially good cover of "Last Train to Expo '67" and the hidden track cover of "Thunderball" adds to the overall flavor of this album. This is definitely a disc that should be played constantly on the ol' hi-fi.

MADNESS - Wonderful
CD - 1999 Virgin Records
review by sharky

It’s not often that I’ll plunk over $27.00 for one import. However, when it’s Madness’ new CD, I’d gladly hand over my first born and never look back. But enough about my spending habits, let me tell you how absolutely incredible this CD is.

Wonderful sounds a lot like lead singer Suggs’ solo work. In fact, the track “4am” was originally recorded by Suggs on his The Lone Ranger album. I would describe their sound as an amalgam of all their previous work. “Lovestruck”, the first track and the first single, is a bouncy little tune somewhat reminiscent of “The Sun and The Rain”. Their ska roots also show on tracks like “The Communicator”, Madness's return to its original nutty sound. “The Wizard” is a rocking number with a catchy horn line and “Elysium” is a wonderful “new wave” sounding track, complete with string orchestration.

Every song on this CD has something new to offer the listener and every track stands out. When this CD is released in the US, I urge everyone to go out and buy it. You will not be disappointed.

THE 'TONE - Wide Eyes And Nonsence...
Tape - 1998 Self-release
review by megan

Geez this is good! It's U.K. high-energy ska without definite punk/rock/oi overtones. Certainly the kind of thing you want to pop in the tape deck to start off a road trip. Or to drink to. The lyrics are great too, clever, smart, and fun. My favorites here are "Pauline" (an ode to the Selecter's Pauline Black as near as I can tell), and "Bloody", with a neat musical breakdown and sweetly depressing lyrics. I'll definitely be writing for their next release and suggest anyone who wants to hear a quality modern ska/punk hybrid do the same. THE BEST THING I'VE HEARD IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS. Contact ben for more information.

TOO HOT - Big Time
CD - 1999 Self-release
review by megan

There are only three songs on Big Time, the EP from European ska band Too Hot. This sucks because the songs are so good that after the third one you keep hoping that magically, the CD will continue. You can't even order the band's first release, Kicking Off, as it sold out, and unless you live in the U.K. there's no way to see Too Hot live. Big Time's great, but it's a bit of a tease for U.S. fans.

Basically, if you like The Busters, you'll like Big Time. The first song, "It's A Shame" carries a solid UK 3rd wave sound over good lyrics, and I think is the best song on the album - it will definitely get you dancing. "Kingston Town", track 2, hearkens back to a more traditional , almost soul, style, with plaintive vocals over a slower tune. The title track ends the EP as a typical European 3rd wave ska song - without a lot of substance but well put together and very catchy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Too Hot gets picked up by a label soon, so that I can stop hitting repeat on my CD player. Visit the band's website at www.skacity.freeserve.co.uk

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