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The Slackers - Twenty Five Years Later and a New Self Titled Album



I can't remember where I was when I first heard the Slackers. I do know I was about 17. A misfit, never really fitting in sort of teenager from North Jersey. It was the mid 90's, and the song was Watch This on a compilation. It kicked me right in the head. From that point on, I was hooked in for good. There was something about the steady groove of the music and the upbeat drag of the vocal that stuck with me and has not let me go since. I had never really listened to anything like this. I had never really heard horns used that way or a bass line like that. This was music that spoke to me somewhere on the inside, in a place I was not able to describe, with a voice I was not really able to find the words for.

Now, here I am, a 37 year old mother of two with a full time job, a blog, and a bad ska addiction. I'm still a misfit who never really fit in, living in North Jersey. Only now I have found an entire community of people just like me (and there are a lot of us) who loves this music too. And I am still listening to The Slackers. They are still kicking me in the head. My favorite band in the ska scene and some of the most fun I have ever had at live shows, these guys have been doing it right for twenty five years now. I only wish I had gotten into them sooner than I did. They had a few changes to the lineup over the years, but I know I am not alone in the thinking that they are a perfect compliment to one another in style, influence, and execution of their crafts. As individuals, they are uniquely talented and masterfully stand alone musicians. Together, they are a powerhouse of sound.

L to R: David Hillyard, Saxaphones; Marcus Geard, Bass; Ara Babajian, Drums; Vic Ruggiero, Vocals and Organ; Jayson Nugent, Guitar; Glen Pine, Vocals and Trombone

So imagine my delight that I have the opportunity to preview their new self titled album. The band has released 13 full length studio albums and 3 live albums since 1991. That's a lot of music. As excited as I was, I really was not sure what to expect from them on this record.

Let's just say I was most pleasantly surprised.

It's been five years since their last studio release. In a most fitting celebration of two and a half decades of getting the dance floor moving, the guys in the Slackers have put together a new album of their usual brand of steady NYC ska - Jamaican Rock and Roll. But hold up. This album is no one trick pony show. Along with that blend of traditional reggae and ska, there are these catchy garage rock tones and even a little surfy-beachy feel. Keep on listening, and there is an almost 1960's soul groove present here. I think it most fitting that they self titled this album. It's not like any Slackers album prior, while being a little bit of every Slackers album prior. Doesn't make sense? It will when you hear it.

The album kicked me open with The Boss. An awesome blend of scratch and flow with Vic's vocals laying a sweet glaze over the top. The brass sounds are powerful. The breakdown is nasty. This is going to be a fun one to be getting down to out on the floor. That is one of the things that sets The Slackers apart from other bands in the scene and has undoubtedly contributed to their staying power. They can take a song and play the ever loving guts out of it live so much that the notion of standing still is not even a consideration.

It lightens up with By The Time I Get To Sleep and we are brought to that glorious Slackers sound we know and love. Heavy brass, steady groove, and a bass line to keep you moving with vocals you can sing along with while you shake what your mama gave you. Or drive. Or work. Just enough keys to add to that flavor. Spin I'm In has a great island feel. Really smooth and really fun. I Want To Be Your Girl has a great rock psychedelic sound while still holding enough of that ska beat that moves your hips and shoulders. There is quite a bit of that on this record. That blending while still moving and shaking.

Skip on over to Working Overtime. I have heard this one live already a few times and this is another great crowd mover. Glen's vocals are a very different flavor from Vic's in that they inject the smooth soul while Vic maintains the raw groove. They are very much two sides of the same coin and it's one that spins wildly on this album. The differences compliment one another so well, and really add to the many things that make a Slackers album. Run Till We Can't Outrun has that really delicious 60's sound I was talking about before. The guitar lends to an infectious feel in this track that has stuck out to me as probably being my favorite song on the album.

I don't want to go track to track on this album giving my opinion. I want you to get this album and play the heck out of it at a very high volume. It's such an incredible blend of sounds and tastes from all across genres and it's really no wonder when you hear what went into this. Two years of writing, recording, editing, and rehearsing gave way to this blend of style and flavor that seems to pull bits and pieces from the individual tastes of every guy in the band. Add in that it was produced by The Aggrolite's Brian Dixon, Vic Axelrod (AKA Ticklah), and the band's own Agent Jay - each of them supervising the recording of four tracks - and you can start to see the shape of it.

The album comes out February 19th. You can get some more info on the release at Big Tunes HERE.

As you can expect, there will be shows. Lots of shows. You can go HERE and check out when they are coming to your town. Get on the floor and shake it. I expect to see you there.




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