Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Lightning Round: Eric Blowtorch and the Bodyguards "Take You Away," Rudebeard "20-20," and Sir Jay & the Skatanauts featuring Lorraine "Joy to the World"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)
  • Eric Blowtorch and the Bodyguards' awesomely bold/crazy fever dream "Take You Away" (Digital single, self-released, 2020) is a dynamic mix of vintage ska, big band jazz, Latin, and spaghetti Western movie scores--plus the drums and percussion mimic a galloping horse throughout. The latter of which is appropriate, as the song's about swooping in to rescue, abscond with, kidnap (?) the one you love: "I’ve come a long, long way/and I’m coming to take you away/From council flats full of lead/Away from subways overhead/Out of the ranks of the dead/Where will we end up? In bed." 
  • All of the shiny pop Christmas standards trying to cheer holiday shoppers up--in the shops that are still open, that is--have felt particularly grim and bleak this year. Millions of people are struggling and suffering, and a shockingly high number have died. And everything else seems mighty tenuous at the moment (some days, it feels like we're not too far off from the days when we'll be bartering family heirlooms for a handful of sugar or coffee, if we're not hiding out in our basements). Thankfully, Scotland's Rudebeard have released a phenomenally good tune wholly appropriate for this season of our annus horribilis. "20-20" (Digital single, F&J Records, 2020) is a muzak-synthpop-ska track (sort of More Specials Dammers meets Yazoo-era Vince Clarke!) that is a brutally honest and darkly funny assessment of 2020 masquerading as a Christmas pop song (the music video for this track--lyrics included!--is a must see). And the lyrics are worth quoting at length:
"Do you remember how it used to be
When twenty-twenty used to mean
A score for seeing perfectly? (Hey, hey!)

But now it's just a cluster ruck
The whole world's locked down and up
We're stuck between the plague and Boris J.

And I can't tell which one is worse
I think I'd save the virus first
If it meant that lump of gammon fat was gone

I've dug a ditch for him to die in
As in life, forever lying
I only wish I could kill him with this song...

...Now here's Rotten John turned out to be
A wee fat ginger Morrissey
Trumping his own trumpet thick and loud

Just a butter-fattened irritant
With fantasies of relevance
Mouthing off on national TV

But never mind the hyper-bollocks, John
You haven't penned one single song
Worth listening to since '93...

...The world is still a trough of swill
For pigs who'll never get their fill
For the rest, it's struggle, misery, and tears...

(Chorus:) England's dreaming of a White Christmas
Flying the flag for thatch-headed racists..."

Umm...Happy Christmas, everyone!

  • Swiss ultra-traditional ska band Sir Jay & the Skatanauts have teamed up with singer Lorraine for a stupendous, live-in-the studio Skatalites-like take on the Christmas hymn "Joy to the World" (Digital single, Tip-A-Top Records, 2020). Whether you're devout or not, you won't be able to help but feel a bit better about everything after listening to this wonderful version. It's full of so much hope and life when both seem in such short supply.

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