Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Did The Slackers Perfect Ska Music in 1997?

Some analysts will scoff at the notion that ska music could’ve been perfected by an American band such as The Slackers. However, if you put in their release, “Redlight” from 1997 into your record player, you will realize that the band not only took elements of ska, they mixed in valuable potent elements of jazz, punk, reggae, and even a little calypso into a melting pot of music that you cannot deny is simply divine. Like a fine wine, even though I hate wine, this record has found a home in the hearts of underground music fans. “Redlight” was a nice companion piece for me, but I didn’t hear it until around 2006.

As far as these types of records are concerned, you have to go back in time to a different place. At the time, as Reel Big Fish, and the swing craze hit, bands like The Slackers and others got a major push into the mainstream. That didn’t last too long though, as you barely hear Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out” on alternative rock radio any longer. In fact, if you are using the terrible Pandora streaming, you may not even hear it there half the time. Furthermore, in 1997 I didn’t have the internet, so this record escaped my grasp.

Hellcat Records produced this 1997 classic, and it’s hard to find on vinyl, but it is well worth it. The songs range from anthems, to laments, and stories. “Cooking For Tommy” opens up a magical experience of ska, jazz, and bass heavy rhythms. If you are a fan of this style of music you’re going to immediately connect with the laid back approach that the band brings out. But by the time you cycle to “Married Girl”, the dynamic shift in lyricism and conceptual storytelling will be something that will hook you. If you can’t enjoy that track, then you perhaps don’t appreciate ska music at all.

Other stand out tracks include, “I Still Love You”, “Redlight”, “She Wants To Be Alone”, “Rude and Wreckless”, “Come Back Baby” and more. There are 12 tracks total on “Redlight” and it’s a fascinating experience as the band travels through various moods and styles. There is never a singular, dull, or lackluster moment. This is the kind of music that should be playing in those old time night clubs with the tables and the drinks coming through, with a small dance floor. If ever there was a speakeasy type of record, it very well may be this one. It has so many good elements and tracks, and yet it doesn’t just focus on the slower progression of simplistic jazz. From the horn section to the lyrics, The Slackers very well could have perfected ska music in 1997, and no one realized it.

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