Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Slackers — The Great Rock-Steady Swindle

It doesn't seem like The Slackers have been around for 19 years and a dozen studio albums, but they have. 
And with this latest effort, the New York City group's sense of humour shows up in the album title — which now has added significance with former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren's recent passing. More importantly, the group still has a great musical formula that blends elements of ska, rock-steady, reggae, dub, soul, old-time R&B, garage rock and classic pop — and the musical chops to deliver it all. Singer/keyboardist Vic Ruggiero calls the group's sound "Jamaican Rock n Roll," and I'm good with that.
The sextet that make folks sweat at its performances recorded the album in Berlin, Germany, with Ruggiero producing and all the members sharing in the songwriting. There's also a dark, keyboard-driven instrumental cover of Bill Withers' 1971 hit, "Ain't No Sunshine."
"Mr. Tragedy" opens with a spoof of The Specials' version of "Enjoy Yourself," and uses some of the Muzak-like elements found on that recently reunited British group's second album.  Sixties rock and soul come together on "Sabina," dub echo infuses "Cheated," while rock-steady mixes with vintage pop on "Daddy." 
"Bo Evil" is full of raw R&B and "Thank You" is a soul stomper. For those who prefer purer reggae, "Tool Shed," "Don't Look Back" and "The TV Dinner Song" fit the bill.
Things end with "The Same Everyday," which has a lyrical theme revolving around boredom but, ironically, is the bounciest and most danceable song of the 15 on the album.
The Great Rock-Steady Swindle isn't my favourite Slackers album, but I'll keep listening to their records as long as Hellcat keeps releasing them because they're just so hard to resist. And the band is even better live.



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