Thursday, November 16, 2017

Duff Review: The Selecter "Daylight"

DMF Records
CD/LP
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Ever since this iteration of The Selecter with Pauline Black, Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson, and (secret weapon) Neil Pyzer began releasing new music, starting with Made in Britain in 2011, each subsequent record has topped the last. Their most recent release, 2015's excellent Subculture (read our ridiculously in-depth review of it), has been surpassed by The Selecter's latest entry Daylight, which may be this band's best record yet.

As one would expect from a 2 Tone act, there are uncompromisingly political songs addressing social, economic, and racial injustice that stimulate one's mind, conscience, and body. The wildly catchy "Frontline" is critical of our smartphone/social media addicted society, where we have significantly more access to (dis)information and each other than ever before in the history of humanity, but actually seem to be increasingly disconnected, numb, and apathetic as a result ("My mind is full/my heart is empty...I need to believe/In something more/Than I wanna stay free"). "Frontline's" reference to the extrajudicial/racial police killing of Eric Garner makes it also a call for real-world, in-person protesting and organizing for justice and change--not Facebook posts that float without impact in the ether of cyberspace. "Taking Back Control" is a potent, fists-in-the-air call to action to counter the rise of ethno-nationalism and right-wing extremism in the UK in the wake of Brexit, while the "arc of history bends towards justice"-themed "Pass the Power" posits that it's long past time that it be given over to "the righteous side." There is great and uncommon empathy expressed in "Paved with Cold" (where the capitalist dream is a nightmare for many), which is sung from the point of view of a lonely homeless person simply trying to survive the winter in a cruel and heartless land ("Spikes where I want to sit...No money is my only crime"). Gaps takes the mic to sing about impending mortality on the Latin ska track "Remember Me" (half its lyrics are in Spanish) and to decry the futility and waste of never-ending war in "Mayhem" (which sounds like it has some Jackie Mittoo/Sound Dimension "Full Up" DNA embedded in there).

But not all is grim in The Selecter's world, Daylight also contains some phenomenally upbeat tunes. "Daylight" is a 1960s AM pop radio ska/soul gem (with Jools Holland on piano!) about the bliss of being in alive and in love. There's an incredibly sprightly and laid-back reggae groove in "Big Badoof," as Pauline and Gaps urge you to keep your chin up, no matter what comes your way. And perhaps the most extraordinary song on the album is "Things Fall Apart," a joyous, Highlife-tinged ska track about black self-empowerment and interdependence--in addition to being an unequivocal demand for equal rights ("I am the master/The master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul/I can make the centre hold...I'll be/Right here behind you/In whatever you do/I won't desert you...If you take/You'd better give me something back!"). "Things Fall Apart" is a reference to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's novel of the same name about the pernicious effects of British colonialism from an African perspective--and the track's lyrics also relate to books by James Baldwin ("Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "I Am Not Your Negro," an unfinished book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.) and Alex Haley ("Roots"), all of which explore African-American identity, history, and experience in an horrifically racist nation.

Buoyed by an absolutely winning set of songs, this version of The Selecter has never sounded more relaxed and self-assured--Daylight is a triumph!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Ska Calendar #56

The one and only Gaz Mayall of The Trojans!
Saturday, December 9, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Pandemics, Mad Conductor, Freya Wilcox, MJT, Love is a Fist

The Gateway
1272 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 10:00 pm

Women of Ska, Reggae, and Soul w/Dubistry and Caz Gardiner

Silvana
300 West 116th Street
New York, NY

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Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Red Light" album in its entirety)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Peculiar" album in its entirety)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Original Wailers, Tribal Seeds, The Expanders

Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$20

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Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Hollie Cook

Elsewhere (Hall)
599 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20 in advance/$22 day of show/16+

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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Ninth Annual Montreal Ska Festival: November 23-26, 2017!

The Ninth Annual Montreal Ska Festival (organized by the Montreal Ska Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Québécois and Canadian ska music and culture) is fast approaching! If you're a fan of the amazing Canadian ska scene (as well as a few American interlopers!), this is the place to be.

Of note, this year's edition of the festival features the return of two very much missed bands, The Kingpins and 2 Stone 2 Skank.

Details on each night's line-up are below and through the links.

Vive le ska!

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Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Kman and the 45s, The Peelers, The Resojets, Les Séparatwists

Cafe Campus - Montreal
57 Prince-Arthur E.
Montreal, Quebec
$15/18+

Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

2 Stone 2 Skank, Danny Rebel and The KGB, Les Happycuriens, Sammy Kay

Cafe Campus - Montreal
57 Prince-Arthur E.
Montreal, Quebec
$15/18+

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Kingpins, The Beatdown, Vic Ruggiero and Chris Murray, Skatton Club

Cafe Campus - Montreal
57 Prince-Arthur E.
Montreal, Quebec
$22/18+

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And there are afterparties each night.

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For some more background on the Montreal Ska Festival, read an interview we did with the organizers, Valerie Desnoyers and Lorraine Muller, back in 2011.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Duff Review: The Stiff Joints "First Proper Album"

Self-released
CD/digital download
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

On the surface, the new(ish) First Proper Album from The Stiff Joints is simply incredibly good fun, as the cover image suggests. The band plays amped-up, hook-filled, sing-along-to-the-chorus modern/2 Tone-inspired ska that may remind one of Madness, The Busters, or The Toasters (they must be a blast to see live). However, despite the good-time musical zaniness, the lyrics (full of word-play) reveal that life in The Stiff Joints' version of the world is kind of off-kilter and crappy--and some of the catchiest and most compelling tunes on the album are the darkest. "Mona Lisa"--the sublime, idealized example of Renaissance beauty--is about coming to the realization that it just might be in your own best interest to let your dream girl go. The blistering "Pop A Knocker" (punch a boob?) relates the story of a marriage gone real sour real fast ("Everybody's bringing presents to my wedding because/They are told they have to/As if all these nice pretty things that all my buddies will bring/Will help me love you...Complications have arised/Cannot look you in the eyes/You're a cheating, rotten liar/Breaking us and full of fire/Broken lives and broken dreams/Things are never what they seem...Stick our love right up your bum!"). The positively swinging "Bubble Bubble" is an ode to less painful living through chemistry ("Gotta little something in the palm of my hand/To keep the big bad wolf from coming around (and blowing me down)...Give me a kiss from the sweet angel bliss...I talked to Frankie, he said relax..."), while "Bruno" is about someone completely devoted to drink and drugs and sex in the pursuit of an effortless life (chorus: "I'll do anything/Just as long as I can sit down"). It's a wild ride with The Stiff Joints on First Proper Album (where will you find yourself waking up in the morning?), but completely worth it.

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Bakesys Release Free "Golden Brown Slices of Toast" Single!

Do The Dog Music
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Following hot on the heels of their excellent new More Bakesys EP (which we've just reviewed), The Bakesys have released a great free digital single, "Golden Brown Slices of Toast" b/w "The Modern Office." Using found bits of audio from 1950s and '60s TV shows and commercials (apparently an obsession of their bass player Stef White) layered over two jaunty ska keyboard instrumentals, they've created sly commentaries on imagined but never really realized "Jetsons"- like idealized futures when "thinking" domestic machines would free housewives from housework ("Golden Brown Slices of Toast") and automated workplaces ("The Modern Office") would allow middle-management men to achieve maximum efficiency with minimal effort ("Very nice. No distractions. Just me and the work."). Good stuff here!

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Rhoda Dakar Launches Crowdfunding Project for "The LoTek Four, Volume II" EP!

Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers, The Special AKA, Madness collaborator) is preparing to record the second volume in her LoTek Four crowdfunded series of EPs. (Read The Duff Guide to Ska review of The LoTek Four, Volume 1--we liked it a lot!)

If you're interested in supporting this project and receiving a vinyl single or CD in return (you can even opt to have them signed by Ms. Dakar!), you have about a month to make your pledge (the expected delivery of the CDs is February 2018 and the 45s will find their way to fans' mailboxes in March of next year). Since I'm a bit of a music obsessive, I'm going for both CD and vinyl...

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Rhoda is currently touring the UK this November and December--do make sure to catch her if she's playing near you (which means that I need to get myself down to the 2018 Supernova International Ska Festival in Virginia next May)!

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Duff Review: The Bakesys "More Bakesys"

Do the Dog Music
2017
CD EP

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The battered emergency call box on this EP's cover (999 in the UK = 911 in the USA) and reference to The Specials' mournful, end-of-days, furious-at-Thatcher album in its title (and font) should quickly clue the more perceptive ska fan to what they're in for thematically with The Bakesys' More Bakesys--protest music for the age of austerity, Brexit, and Theresa May. And what fantastic music it is!

Drawing musical inspiration from the stripped-down, minor key, and keyboard-focused ska of The Specials' Ghost Town EP, as well as the output of The Specials' musical descendants The Dead 60s, The Bakesys' have created a powerful set of songs that provide sharp social commentary on life during economic wartime. "Anything and Everything," "If You Ain't Got It (You'll Never Get It)," and "No Time Counting Sheep" address communities being devastated through mass unemployment and government cutbacks to public services ("Nothing left standing in this forgotten town/The shops are closed/They've all gone away/Nothing to spend around here anyway"), extreme economic inequality ("The river's too deep/The mount is too high/The valley's too wide/So don't even try"--we're way past "Enjoy Yourself" these days), and the soul-crushing grind of what work there is to be had--that never lets you get ahead ("I get up before I go to sleep/Bills to pay and appointments to keep"). Other aspects of life aren't much better. The deceptively bright "Your 10FT Smile" is about lying lovers and politicians, while "When the Zombies Come" urges the listener to forego the pork rinds and get into shape so they'll be physically able to evade the undead hordes when they come (and slyly quotes The Toasters' "Run, Rudy, Run" in the chorus!). The British landscape may be grim at the moment, but the Bakesys' music never is.

More of this, please.

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For more on The Bakesys, see The Duff Guide to Ska review of their recent compilation, Studio Selections 1991-1995.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Duff Review: Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra "Paradise Has No Border"

Nacional Records
CD/digital
2017

(Review by Steve Shafer)

In what may be the most overtly political statement in this famously apolitical band's long history, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra has titled their 22nd album Paradise Has No Borders (which is their second to be released domestically in the USA). By promoting a theme of global, human unity through music in this ugly age of nativism, nationalism, Brexit, and Trump--and creating an album specifically pitched to Spanish language fans in the US, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and other points in Central and South America (a shrewd move, as the Latin rock fan base is huge and tends to love their ska)--Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra have firmly allied themselves with multiculturalism, the angels, and the right side of history. (And perhaps the title of the album is also meant as a bit of a pun, since 'paradise' is in the name of the band--TSPO literally are not bound by any borders! They tour everywhere!)

Notably, Paradise Has No Borders contains several songs sung in Spanish (another is in English and the rest in Japanese), collaborations with Latin ska acts Los Autenticos Decadentes from Argentina and Inspector from Mexico, and cuts incorporating elements from several genres of Latin and Afro-Cuban music. Of course, since TSPO are one of the most talented bands in ska (or popular music, for that matter), they handle it all with great skill and aplomb. As with most TSPO albums, there is something for every ska fan to like here--practically all imaginable permutations/hyphenations of ska are represented, along with healthy injections of sunshiny '60s AM pop, Henry Mancini/Nelson Riddle-like instrumentals/arrangements, and bits and pieces from any other musical genres that strike their fancy. Highlights of Paradise include the rambunctious instrumental "Skankin' Rollin,'" the joy-filled, sing-along "Routine Melodies Reprise" (see the video below), "Believer" (dig the groovy Latin ska jazz!), the driving, almost 2 Tone-ish "Samurai Dreamers," and "Girl on Saxophone X" (an incredible ska-surf-"Peter Gunn" styled cut).

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra's Paradise Has No Borders is another top notch album from an unstoppable band.

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Want more on Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra?

Read The Duff Guide to Ska's review of TSPO's Ska Me Forever album (2015) and our live gig review (with videos!) of a TSPO show here in NYC from 2013.

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Lastly, check out this video for "Routine Melodies Reprise" that the band shot on the streets of Austin, Texas during their recent (March 2017) appearance at SXSW.



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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Fall/Winter 2017 Ska Calendar #55

Saturday, October 28, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George, Tatanka, Lovely Budz

Sounds of Brazil
204 Varick Street
New York, NY
$12 in advance/$15 day of show

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Saturday, October 28, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

6th Annual Devil's Night Danse w/Mephiskapheles, Hub City Stompers, 45 Adapters

Bowery Electric
327 Bowery
New York, NY
$20/21+

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Saturday, November 11, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

The English Beat, The Pomps

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
Tix: $30-$50

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Saturday, December 9, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Pandemics, Mad Conductor, Freya Wilcox, MJT, Love is a Fist

The Gateway
1272 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Red Light" album in its entirety)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers (playing the "Peculiar" album in its entirety)

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $20 in advance/$25 day of show/$32 two-day pass
21+

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2018 Supernova International Ska Festival Line-Up Announced

If you've been under a rock (or sick, like I've been), you'll want to know that the 2018 Supernova International Ska Festival line-up has been announced (with a few more headliner slots TBA). Here's who's booked so far: The PietastersThe Suicide Machines, MU330, Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra, Rhoda Dakar (Sings The Bodysnatchers), Dr. Ring-Ding, Roddy Radiation & The Skabilly Rebels, The Scotch Bonnets, Adam Flymo Birch & the Versions, Chris Murray, Spring Heeled Jack (USA), Eastern Standard Time, DJ Chuck Wren, Duncan Shifter, Danny Rebel, Duppies, The Steady 45s, Hub City Stompers, Matamoska, The Crombies, Soul Radics, Sgt. Scagnetti and Matt Wixson's Flying Circus. The festival will take place on May 26, 2018 and May 27, 2018 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

More details are to come, but specially-priced early bird tickets are available now. And, if you're into it, camping is available for the weekend.

Looks like I'm gonna have to try to make this one!

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