Friday, February 23, 2018

Pre-Order Hepcat's "Out of Nowhere" on Vinyl for First Time with Bonus LP of Victor Rice Dubs!

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of Hepcat's debut album Out Of Nowhere (which was originally issued on Moon Records), the band is making a limited-edition (1,000 copies), 180 gram vinyl version of the album available with a bonus LP of new Victor Rice dubs titled Dub Outta Nowhere. It should be noted that Out Of Nowhere has never been pressed on vinyl (when it came out in 1993, vinyl was out, though cassettes were hanging in there--CDs were the future).

You can pre-order the double LP now (and you'll be able to immediately download digital copies of Out Of Nowhere and Dub Outta Nowhere) and should expect delivery of the vinyl in May or June of this year.

Without a doubt, Out Of Nowhere was one of the first classic albums of the so-called American Third Wave of ska in the 1990s and deserves an honored spot in every ska fan's collection...

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Winter/Spring 2018 Ska Calendar #3

Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 10:00 pm

NYC Ska Orchestra

Fat Cat Music
75 Christopher Street
New York, NY
$3.00 cover

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Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The Skatalites, The Alchemystics

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15/21+

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Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

The Scofflaws and Top Shotta Band featuring Screechy Dan

Diviera Drive
131 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY
$12

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Saturday, March 3, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Super Hi-Fi ("Blue and White" record release!), Cameramen

Nublu 151
151 Avenue C
New York, NY

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Friday, March 9, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Coolie Ranx Birthday Bash with Pilfers, Full Watts Band, Reggay Lords, Love Always, Typhoid Rosie

Brooklyn Bazaar
150 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20/All ages

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Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

Fidel Nadal (with The Heart Beaters), The Ladrones, The Applecores, Ensemble Calavera

Studio Square/Bulb Room
35-33 36th Street
Long Island City, NY
$30/21+

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Saturday, March 17, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

St. Patrick's Day Celebration with Beat Brigade, The Ladrones, Super Hi-Fi, Joker's Republic, Thirteen Towers, The Screw-Ups, plus DJ Ryan Midnight!

RUBULAD
Bushwick, Brookyn
Get in touch with Dj Gorilla Presents through FB event page for address.
$10/All ages

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Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Hollie Cook, The Far East

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

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Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Dave Hillyard and the Rocksteady 7 w/DJ 100Dbs

Hank's Saloon
46 Third Avenue (corner of Atlantic)
Brooklyn, NY

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Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The English Beat w/Dave Wakeling

City Winery
155 Varick Street
New York, NY
$40-$60

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Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The English Beat w/Dave Wakeling

City Winery
155 Varick Street
New York, NY
$40-$60

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Saturday, March 31, 2018 @ 5:30 pm

45 Adapters 10th Anniversary Party w/Hub City Stompers, Duffy's Cut, Legion 76, Guns Don't Run, No Parole, Los Perros, Lvger

The Kingsland
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/16+

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Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Annual 4:20 Reggae Fiesta on the River w/Dub is a Weapon, Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus, plus Specials Guests TBA

Rocks Off Concert Cruise - Aboard the Harbor Lights
Boards 23rd Street and the FDR
Manhattan, NY
$29 in advance/$35 day of show
21+

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Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Vic Ruggiero, The Hempsteadys, Charlie Whites

Gold Sounds
44 Wilson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Saturday, May 12, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
Hub City Stompers (album release show), No Redeeming Social Value, Ladrones, NAA

El Cortez
17 Ingraham Street
Brooklyn, NY
$12/21+

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Roddy Radiation and The Scotch Bonnets

Hank's Saloon
46 Third Avenue (corner of Atlantic)
Brooklyn, NY

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pre-Order Phoenix City All-stars' "Clash Version Rockers"!

Knowing how so many readers of The Duff Guide to Ska are diehard Clash fans (myself included), we thought many of you would be interested in this upcoming release from the Phoenix City All-stars: Clash Version Rockers! Their previous releases were trad ska takes on 2 Tone, The Rolling Stones, and Dexy's Midnight Runners (links to reviews are at the bottom of this post).

Clash Version Rockers features covers of "White Riot," "London Calling," "Clash City Rockers," "This Is Radio Clash," "Bankroller," "Tommy Gun," "Career Opportunities," "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais," and "Guns of Brixton" done in a '70s rockers style!

Both CD and LPs can be preordered now (and will be mailed out around April 6, 2018): https://phoenixcityall-stars.bandcamp.com/album/clash-version-rockers. I placed my order for an LP earlier today.

If you're in/near London, tickets for the premiere of Clash Version Rockers live (30 Mar’18) with DJs Don Letts and Tessa (The Slits) are available now from www.buytickets.at/hotshotscorcher (this show is part of the 2018 London International Ska Festival).

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For more on the Phoenix City All-stars, check out The Duff Guide to Ska reviews of Searching for the Young Ska Rebels (Dexy's), Skatisfaction (Rolling Stones), and Two Tone Gone Ska.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Duff Review: Heavyball "When Can You Start?"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Heavyball When Can You Start? (digital and gatefold LPMagnetic North Melodies, 2017): Their debut 2015 album Black Eye Diaries featured a super ska cover of Bronski Beat's mid-'80s synth-pop hit "Smalltown Boy" (about a gay teen's experience with homophobia, gay-bashing, and familial rejection), and an hilarious, self-aware/regretful, still-in-love with your ex/drunk bar fight song "Black Eye Friday" that manages to work in a bit of Toots and the Maytals' "54-46 (Was My Number)": "I hit him one time/He hit me three times/I was talking, when I should've been listening..." Heavyball's follow-up When Can You Start is an incredible concept album--a mod-ska-Britpop opera, if you will--about a week in the dispirited and demeaned lives of a variety of British workers that doubles as a sharp (and in many ways timeless) critique of our capitalist system if you're not amongst the Chosen Few at the top.

The album opens with "Top of Your Game," where the singer is past his career prime--it's far too late for a major course correction, but he's determined to forge ahead with what he's got ("You're not getting any younger/Feel like you're in the way/You're not getting any younger/Every dog will have its day/I like it, I wouldn't change it/I still sing my song/I love it, I wouldn't change it/The show still goes on"). And the scenarios depicted in the songs that follow become more grim. "Heist" compares people involved in investment banking/hedge funds to outright (and entitled!) thieves ("No, he doesn't have a shooter/And he doesn't wear a mask/He'll empty out your pockets/All you have to do is ask/It's nothing less than he deserves/He's worked very hard for this/It's just another day/In a bank-ster's paradise..."). "People Person" is about the opposite--the forced socializing with people you'd never know apart from work driving one mad ("Is there anything more boring/Than hearing about someone else's holiday?/You had this dream where you were drowning/I hope your dreams come true some day"). "Yesterday's Man" expresses dread at the implications in the rise of automation/AI at work: "You can call the union/You can write a protest song to sing/It wouldn't change a thing/'Cause you are yesterday's man/We'll set you free with redundancy/Oh yeah, you're yesterday's man/Your time's your own/Spend more time at home." You'll have plenty of leisure time, just no way to pay for it. Individuals not suited or qualified for office work are shunted off to the service industry ("Retail is Detail": "Someday...we won't be ordinary") and others are only useful as fodder for the war machine ("Year Out" with its dissonant Fishbone-y horns and spaghetti Western ska: "Welcome son/Yeah, it was a pity, was a job well done/We know you were only 21/and martyrs never die").

The cheeriest track on the album is the bouncy, carefree ska tune "The Perils of Midweek Drinking" ("Oh my God, that beer tastes good/I want another/I want another.../And it's so good/Until the following day/When you know you should have stayed in"), which helps make work more tolerable, yet all the more miserable to do hung over. And the shimmering "After Dark" conveys the relief and small freedom people feel at the end of the work day before they have to start it all over again in the AM (and questions this way of living): "This is for all the lovely people in London city tonight.../And some might say/There's another way/Listen to the sound of the city breathing/See the sights of the city alive." The final track is the lush, numb, and defiant "No More 9 to 5" (with a chorus that you can't help but sing along with) where the singer is perhaps permanently unemployable and preparing to opt out of the system forever: "Drinking in the evening sun/Sitting with a loaded gun/And like a .45/I'm by your side/Never know what life will bring/Or the song the fates will sing/But when the story ends/I'm by your side...No more 9 to 5 for us, baby/It's a holiday, till the day we die."

In sum, When Can You Start? is about wasted years, unfulfilled lives, dashed aspirations--all sacrificed, willingly or not, at Mammon's altar. There is great sadness, beauty, and empathy, as well as bits of joy and humor in Heavyball's songs, which also seem to capture the absurdity of our economic system and the collective experience of the 99% during our current revival of the Gilded Age. Listening to When Can You Start? inspired me to pull out another British album that perfectly reflected the tenor-of-its-time: Blur's Parklike. The comparison is apt--it's that good.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Desorden Publico "Bailando Sobre Las Ruinas"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Desorden Publico Bailando Sobre Las Ruinas (pink, red, yellow, olive green, sea green vinyl LP with artwork by CHema Skandal, Jump Up Records, 2017): This limited-edition record (200 copies) was released in the USA to coincide with Desorden Publico's tour of the States last fall, though the album actually came out in Venezuela during the summer of 2016. While my high school Spanish is crude at best, the title of the album translates into English as Dancing on the Ruins--and many of the absolutely amazing songs on this album (a blend of 2 Tone ska, reggae, and various forms of Latin music) are joyous and full of life (in the face of ever-present mortality), but also display a keen awareness of the importance of speaking truth to power--see the title track: "Become the change you aspire/And I will see you dancing on the ruins"; the tightly-wound "Everything is Very Normal" ("Todo Esta Muy Normal"): "Walk to the corner, nothing happens here!/Check your pockets, you have plenty of money!/Go anywhere, everything works!"; or the longing for positive and profound change in "I'm Looking for Something in the Caribbean" ("Estoy Buscando Algo En El Caribe"): "I am not looking for similarities/Although I know we are all the same/What matters the political regime?/Democracy, dictatorship or socialism/We are still Latin American/Although they keep putting barriers/Because many things unite us/The crisis has no borders." Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra joins Desorden Publico on "Ska World Ska" ("Ska Mundo Ska") and Dr. Ring Ding toasts about the weather on "It is Cold in Berlin" ("Es Ist Kalt In Berlin"), and the band soars on tracks like the extraordinary "Cemetery of My Loves" ("Cementerio E Mis Amores"), sung from the point of view of a "Seventh Seal"-like figure of Death, and "Those Who Stay, Those Who Leave" ("Los Que Se Quedan, Los Que Se Van"), a mournful song about the exodus of Venezuelan youth from their troubled home country. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of the context and commentary on Bailando Sobre Las Ruinas, political and otherwise, but what's not in doubt is that this a tremendously good album.

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Desorden Publico Bailando Sobre Las Ruinas (vinilo LP verde mar, rojo, amarillo, verde oliva, verde mar con obras de CHema Skandal, Jump Up Records, 2017): Este álbum de edición limitada (200 copias) fue lanzado en los Estados Unidos para coincidir con Desorden Publico recorrió Estados Unidos el otoño pasado, aunque el álbum realmente salió en Venezuela durante el verano de 2016. Si bien el español de mi escuela secundaria es crudo en el mejor de los casos, el título del álbum se traduce al inglés como Dancing on the Ruins, y muchos de las canciones absolutamente increíbles en este álbum (una mezcla de 2 Tone ska, reggae y varias formas de música latina) son alegres y llenas de vida (frente a la mortalidad omnipresente), pero también muestran una aguda conciencia de la importancia de decir la verdad al poder: ver la canción que da título al álbum: "Conviértete en el cambio que deseas/Y te veré bailar sobre las ruinas"; el muy cerrado "Todo es muy normal": "¡Camina hacia la esquina, no pasa nada aquí!/¡Mira tus bolsillos, tienes mucho dinero!/¡Ve a cualquier parte, todo funciona!"; o el anhelo de un cambio positivo y profundo en "Estoy buscando algo en el Caribe": "No estoy buscando similitudes/Aunque sé que todos somos iguales/Lo que importa ¿el régimen político?/Democracia, dictadura o socialismo/Seguimos siendo latinoamericanos/Aunque siguen poniendo barreras/Porque muchas cosas nos unen/La crisis no tiene fronteras." La Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra se une a Desorden Publico en "Ska Mundo Ska" y el Dr. Ring Ding brinda por el clima en "Es frío en Berlín" ("Es Ist Kalt In Berlin"), y la banda se eleva en pistas como el extraordinario "Cementerio de mis amores," cantada desde el punto de vista de una figura de "Muerte" y "Aquellos que se quedan, los que se van," una triste canción sobre el éxodo de jóvenes venezolanos de su país de origen en problemas. Estoy seguro de que me falta mucho del contexto y los comentarios sobre Bailando Sobre Las Ruinas, políticos y de otro tipo, pero lo que no cabe duda es que este es un álbum tremendamente bueno.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

The Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Autocratics "The Autocratics," Soweto "Turn On the Music Again," Wild Man Riddim "Worldwide Frequency," and Doctor Bird Reissues!

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

The Autocratics The Autocratics (CD, Ska in the World Records, 2017): This powerhouse Japanese band is heavily influenced by 2 Tone--The Specials and Beat, in particular, and The Autocratics shamelessly nick bits of their songs here and there (listen to "Populace Intention," "Nothing Hopeless," "Too Much Too Old," and "The Selection"), but you won't care, since it's all done so well. This album's a blast from start to finish; they must be incredible to see live, too.

Soweto Turn On the Music Again (CD + LP, Liquidator Music, 2017): This album is full of excellent original cuts in a vintage '60s ska sound, with wonderful Skatalites-like instrumentals ("Don in the Arena" and "Last Duel in the OK Corral") and catchy early ska vocal cuts--think Maytals, Gaylads, Jackie Opel, etc. ("Smile," "Please Don't Go," "I Won't Come Back," "Fire in Meh Wire"--their own tune, not a Laurel Aitken cover). Ska traditionalists will love this band and release.

Wild Man Riddim Worldwide Frequency (digital album, Brixton Records, 2017): If fantastic ska-jazz instrumentals played by gifted musicians are your thing ( think NY Ska Jazz Ensemble, The Senior All Stars, The Brooklyn Attractors, etc.), then you'll really take a liking to Norway's Wild Man Riddim. Top tracks include, "The Purpose," "Laptop," "Little Sunflower," and "You Got the Horn"!

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Doctor Bird Reissues: I recently picked up several incredible Cherry Red reissues of late 1960s Doctor Bird rocksteady/early reggae albums from The Ethiopians (Reggae Power and Woman Capture Man), The Uniques (Absolutely...The Uniques), and Derrick Harriott and the Crystalites (Psychedelic Train). Each expanded CD contains loads of bonus tracks (all have about 25 songs--I need to take some time to really listen to them all) and extensive liner notes! Other releases in their series include Justin Hinds and the Dominoes (From Jamaica with Reggae), Marcia Griffiths (Naturally/Steppin'), The Kingstonians (Sufferer), and several compilations (Hot Shots of Reggae, Gay Feet, and Dancing Down Orange Street).

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Winter/Spring 2018 Ska Calendar #2

Friday, February 9, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

HR and Human Rights, Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus

El Cortez
17 Ingraham Street
Brooklyn, NY
$15/21+

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Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The Wailers, The Far East

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20/21+

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Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

100% Ska with Selections by DJ Ryan Midnight

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
New York, NY
No cover!

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Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

We Are the Resistance Ska Punk show w/The Ladrones, Los Perros, Sewer Skewer, Epilepsia, Por No Estar

Blackthorn 51
80-12 51st Avenue
Elmhurst, NY
$12

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Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The Skatalites, The Alchemystics

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15/21+

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Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

The Scofflaws and Top Shotta Band featuring Screechy Dan

Diviera Drive
131 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY
$12

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Friday, March 9, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Coolie Ranx Birthday Bash with Pilfers, Full Watts Band, Reggay Lords, Love Always, Typhoid Rosie

Brooklyn Bazaar
150 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20/All ages

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Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

Fidel Nadal (with The Heart Beaters), The Ladrones, The Applecores, Ensemble Calavera

Studio Square/Bulb Room
35-33 36th Street
Long Island City, NY
$30/21+

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Saturday, March 17, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

St. Patrick's Day Celebration with Beat Brigade, The Ladrones, Super Hi-Fi, Joker's Republic, Thirteen Towers, The Screw-Ups, plus DJ Ryan Midnight!

RUBULAD
Bushwick, Brookyn
Get in touch with Dj Gorilla Presents through FB event page for address.
$10/All ages

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Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Hollie Cook, The Far East

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

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Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Dave Hillyard and the Rocksteady 7 w/DJ 100Dbs

Hank's Saloon
46 Third Avenue (corner of Atlantic)
Brooklyn, NY

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Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The English Beat w/Dave Wakeling

City Winery
155 Varick Street
New York, NY
$40-$60

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Monday, March 26, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

The English Beat w/Dave Wakeling

City Winery
155 Varick Street
New York, NY
$40-$60

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Saturday, March 31, 2018 @ 5:30 pm

45 Adapters 10th Anniversary Party w/Hub City Stompers, Duffy's Cut, Legion 76, Guns Don't Run, No Parole, Los Perros, Lvger

The Kingsland
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/16+

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Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

The Annual 4:20 Reggae Fiesta on the River w/Dub is a Weapon, Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus, plus Specials Guests TBA

Rocks Off Concert Cruise - Aboard the Harbor Lights
Boards 23rd Street and the FDR
Manhattan, NY
$29 in advance/$35 day of show
21+

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Duff Review: Various Artists "Gifted: A Ska Tribute to The Jam"

Specialized UK/Jump Up Records
Red or white vinyl LP
2018

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Gifted is the latest in a series of excellent ska tribute/Teenage Cancer Trust benefit CD compilations from Specialized UK, which have been released in part on vinyl by Jump Up in the USA; previous efforts have focused on The Specials, The Beat, Madness, Bob Marley, and The Clash. The selection of cuts on the abridged, vinyl version of Gifted (in its original form, this is a 4 x CD release!) are a mix of The Jam's hit singles (in the UK, at least), b-sides, and album cuts (many from Setting Sonsall of them brilliant)--and the vast majority of the covers here bring something different and compelling to each version of these songs. In sum, Gifted is a powerful and winning set of tracks that do The Jam proud.

Of particular note are the Meow Meows' "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" (which takes on a whole new level of dread with a woman singing about being brutally mugged/assaulted by right wing goons...and worrying about her wife back at home, since the thugs have the singer's house keys); my old bandmates Rude Boy George's "Town Called Malice" (which decries the meager quality of life and dashed dreams of the masses in Thatcher's England); King Hammond's swinging "I Got By In Time" (with life experience comes wisdom); the Pressure Tenants "Strange Town" (about being alienated in one's own gray and unwelcoming land); Erin Bardwell Collective's very Beatles-y "English Rose"; The Amphetameanies' "Funeral Pyre" (with its allusions to fascist book-burnings--and a chart hit for The Jam just a few weeks before The Specials' "Ghost Town" went #1, when riots tore through many of England's cities, mainly due to high youth unemployment and the police's outrageous and despicable use of the Sus law to harass black people); Los Chicklet's Spanish-sung "Saturday's Kids" ("These are the real creatures that time has forgot/Not given a thought, it's the system/Hate the system, what's the system?"); The Crombies' Joe Jackson-like (think the New Wave ska of his "Pretty Boys") "Girl on the Phone" (concerning the bizarre experience of losing all privacy in the face of fame); The Skapone's "Smithers-Jones" (Bruce Foxton's warning of how workers who play the game and conform to capitalism's rules and societal expectations are ground up and spit out in the end; by the way, Paul Willo shines here!); and Lynval Golding and Contra Coup's wild, dancehall DJ-effects filled "Tales of the Riverbank" (an admittedly nostalgic longing for the innocence and freedom that comes with being very young).

The Jam's songs (and Paul Weller's and Foxton's enormous empathy for their songs' protagonists) continue to be surprisingly immediate and relevant three decades on (and oftentimes they're more accessible, as you can much more easily discern the lyrics in these versions!). Most of all, Gifted reminds the listener that being young and/or powerless in your own cruel and unjust country--when all you want to do is have fun, pursue your dreams, and earn enough to get by--is the same as it ever was...

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