Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Dendrites "Lunchin' with The Dendrites"

The cover features a line illustration of an outstretched hand with the EP's title printed above it.Self-released
CD/digital EP

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Lunchin' with The Dendrites is the absolutely brilliant new EP from Denver's Dendrites that packs quite a wallop in its six tracks of strikingly original ska and jazz. "Dujack," with all of its menace (played by these wonderfully gifted musicians), could be the instrumental theme song for an imagined 1950s or 1960s private eye TV show, as it's in the vein of iconic tracks like "Peter Gunn" (written by Henry Mancini) or "Ironside" (composed by Quincy Jones); the music promises thrills, action, and conflict. "No Money No Sunshine" is an awesomely twisted you're completely bad for me but I can't help but love you mid-tempo ska song: "Baby, your dark cloud's been hanging over me/And I don't miss the sun/'Cause I hate to say, I love you more every single day/...Your vampire ways." I'm not sure if she's literally undead, but it's kind of not good either way.

"Snap Patch" is an easy-going jazzy/funky instrumental, while "Xaasj" (a species of large cacti found in northern Mexico) is a Mexican-ska-jazz blend, cinematic in scope, evoking the high drama of spaghetti Westerns. Perhaps the best cut on the EP, "Bottom Feeder" is an incredible, bright, dubby ska instrumental with these nagging minor-key chord progressions full of apocalyptic "Man at C and A"/"Ghost Town"-type dread (that Jerry Dammers did so well). Equally appropriate for Earth Day or the global COVID-19 pandemic, the sing-along "Don't Wanna Go" is an eco-ska song for environmental end times (it's the cut that should follow "Enjoy Yourself," when that track's lyrics are no longer relevant), which laments what we've done to trash the place, so much so that we have to abandon the mother-ship: "I'm not packing my suitcase 'cause I wanna go/Not packing my bags for a weekend show/I'm packing up 'cause we all gotta leave/'Cause the place we call home's a catastrophe...I'm packing now baby 'cause it's all gonna blow/Well, I tried and I tried and I tried to live green/Beam me up, Scotty, I don't wanna leave."

Lunchin' with The Dendrites is a real gem of an EP and, it almost goes without saying, is one of the best ska releases of the year.

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