Thursday, May 6, 2021

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Eric Blowtorch and the Inflammables "Quality Items"!

Eric Blowtorch stands outside as it snows holding the letters Q and I.
(Review by Steve Shafer)

Quality Items, the excellent new triple-LP (containing 36 songs!) from Eric Blowtorch and the Inflammables (3 x vinyl LPs, Bopaganda! Records, 2021--you can buy it through their Discogs page), brings to mind The Clash's Sandinista (also 36 tracks), not just for the album's length, but for the band's versatility and daring--they're going wherever their creativity and inspiration leads them. Like The Clash, Eric Blowtorch and the Inflammables don't limit themselves to any particular musical genre. There's some really fantastic ska and reggae here, but also a few mix tapes' worth of top-shelf jazz (big band/free form/no wave), soul, bossa nova, pop and rock, even disco (the musically omnivorous Joe Strummer would've been proud). Duff Guide readers will be most interested in the ska tracks "Bad Dream" ("...and you feel so lonely, lonely, alone/Like Margarita with one limp hand stuck inside the trombone/Bad was just a bad dream/This terror must subside/You'll feel better after you have cried"), a version of Leonard Cohen's cinematic and vengeful "First We Take Manhattan" ("...then we take Berlin"), and a different, stripped down take of "Mercy" (which was released as a digital single last year and reviewed by me here), and the reggae cuts "Hatred of Captivity" (a spectacular "Ghost Town"-y instrumental), a wonderfully ragged cover of Marley's "Dance Do The Reggae," and the jazz-inflected "Last Day of School." But less parochial music fans also will find much to devour, including the big band "She's a Pro"; the no wave/free form jazz songs "Set My Woman Free" and "Paz Para Vieques"; the Motown-ish "You Ain't Mad" and "Town for Sale"; the harrowing, defiant, and hopeful WWII/Holocaust (and Peter Ivers-sounding) ballad "Ghetto Resistance"; and the offbeat pop and rock cuts "Best of Times" ("Please pardon the expression/But we've all known great depression/Stop, look, and listen, pity party's out of session--not waiting for your blessing!/These could be...the best of times"), "Guzzling Gasoline" ("The first foot on the pedal seldom touches earth/Millionth customer at Citgo knows what life is worth/'This bucket is my birthright!' cries the bully in the pulpit/Give me the premium, let me gulp it!"), "Every Star in the Sky" (an end-of-the night-slow-dancer), "Never Too Far Away," and "Throw Open Your Arms." There's a lot to digest here (I've only scratched the surface), but like Sandinista, the longer you live with it, the more you discover, and deeper you find your love for it. 

(For a bit more background on Quality Items, check out this interview with Eric Blowtorch in Shepherd Express.)

+ + + +

No comments: