Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: Rudebeard, Some Ska Band, Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra!

The cover illustration is of a bearded skull wearing a pirate's hat.(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

  • Despite the abundant awfulness of 2020, this year has offered up a few good things: I managed to publish my first book (shameless plug, I know), and Scotland's Rudebeard have offered up their second digital EP since the start of the summer! Rudebeard's Disgrace EP (Digital, F and J Records, 2020) is anything but--it's a mini-masterpiece. The protagonist of "Disgrace" readily owns up to his host of shortcomings ("I’m a drunkard, baby/I’m a stoner, antisocial drinking-on-my-owner/Just a child with an adult’s body and face...I ain't no saint/Just a sinner") on this wild, riff-heavy spaghetti Western modern ska track (the synths and subject matter remind me of Magazine's "A Song from Under the Floorboards"). "Are You Ready" is a jaunty lockdown song (which may or may not have a long shelf-life, depending on humanity's--really America's--ability to act for the common good) anticipating the full reopening of things: "It's gonna be chaos/It's gonna get rough/The night they let us back in the pubs/It's gonna be apocalyptic, baby/Get ready." The band drolly dedicate the song to Scotland's city centre police, who will have their hands full. Yet, Rudebeard are also quite capable of delivering the genuinely moving ska ballad "World Keeps Rolling On," about a friend who's died: "Since you're gone/Well, the world kept moving on/It's pretty quiet down here/But it's pretty lonely." And this brings us back to how 2020 just keeps on sucking. A very good friend of mine, one of the most decent human beings I've ever known, unexpectedly passed away earlier this summer. And this song brought tears to my eyes, as it so unapologetically expresses all the sadness, grief, and permanent hole-in-yer-heart that everyone feels when someone close is gone forever.
    The artwork features the bands name printed on the top of a metal soda bottle cap.
  • Rochester, New York's Some Ska Band have just released two excellent dubs--with Agent J at the controls--of instrumental cuts off their great 2018 debut album It's Going Down: "American Dublines" b/w "Forty Dubs" (Digital, self-released, 2020). For those not yet down with Some Ska Band's album, "American Dublines" (from "American Skalines") is a bright, very '80s, Beat-inspired song, while "Forty Dubs" (from "Forty Thieves") is a Prince Buster (think "7 Wonders of the World") meets Dick Dale mash-up. Agent J's production inserts some sonic distance between the music and listener, removing some of the originals' "Is it live or is it Memorex?" immediacy in favor of the depth of seemingly vast space. Highly recommended. 
    The cover features a locomotive engine billowing a huge plume of smoke.
  • Perhaps in another timeline Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra's extraordinary original track "Bedouin Ska" (Digital, self-released, 2020) was included on the soundtrack to David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia--it's the aural equivalent of edge-of-your-seat action and high drama, being played out in the expansive and exquisite desolation of the Sinai desert, with (to white Westerners) an exotic cast of characters and their mysterious customs and cultures. For all of their Skatalites obsession, this cut makes me realize that WST is really America's answer to Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. 

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