The NPC’s Are Shining a Bright Light in Dark Times with Their Version of “Superman”

Times have been dark and confusing for a while. COVID-19 has ransacked life as we know it and those of us in various music communities feel it as hard as anyone. Venues are shuttered. Tours are cancelled. Studios are closed. Musicians, producers, crew, photographers and journalists, fans and everyone who calls “music” home are stuck secluded from everything we know about the sanity and insanity that was our lives. Things have been lonely and quiet and frankly very depressing.

Sometime at the beginning of the pandemic shut down, the band Goldfinger re-recorded a few of these more recognizable songs from their homes. They put them out as videos and I shared most of them with glee as they were a wonderful piece of nostalgia for my cranky old Gen-X ass, but they were also a glimpse of the normal that we so desperately needed. They showed that people were ok at home and still wanting to make music. People we knew. People we loved. I admit I also had a total voyeur thing with seeing people’s homes, but it was a comfort to see that we were ok. Lots of bands started putting out videos like this around that time. Musicians from home still making music. It was hope!

Time has dragged on and there have been fewer and fewer of these types of videos popping up. Some folks have gone back to work at their day jobs. Some people have started to slowly venture back out into the world like mole people in the bright sun as things slowly reopened. We are still so far from normal though. There are still no tours, still only very small shows, if any, in most cities. Some venues have closed for good. Most places are not allowing large gatherings and those that do are questionably safe as the pandemic still rages on through America. I miss shows and live music because that is where my friends are. It’s where my blog is. It’s where I feel most alive. I like to say I don’t much like people but the truth is that I like my music people and I miss the ever loving shit out of them.

So what do we do now?

I can’t speak for many these days, but I can say that The NPC’s had a great idea and it’s one of the most invigorating things I have had the pleasure of seeing since this madness took over our world. You might not know who the NPC’s are. You can hop on over to their Facebook page and give them a look at and see their origins. What began with a desire to put together a cover song has turned into a movement to keep music alive. To put it simply, it’s a collective of musicians who work together from afar to do random covers. Artists who might not be in the same time zone as one another but who love the idea of collaborating on songs they love. In times like these when we can’t just meet up at our local practice spot and put something together, this group has tapped into something incredible. Several of my friends from the punk and ska world have been there for a bit. I had no idea what was brewing over there.

Now I am not shy about telling the world I am almost 42 years old. It might explain some of my tastes. It’s also going to make it make a little more sense when I tell you that when the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater came out, I played it all freaking day. We all did. We would play it in groups. We would play it alone. We would sit on the phone with friends and play it. The soundtrack was our soundtrack in the rest of our lives so that just made it better. When they announced that it was coming back, we were all singing along already. The NPC was no different and when Goldfinger’s Superman was mentioned, it didn’t take long for 56 musicians to want to be involved. Yes, 56 musicians. Horn players alone make up 25 of them. They come from all over the country. They are in their kitchens, basements, home studios, backyards, skateparks, their lives. Try not to feel the joy. Try to ignore the smile you will get watching and listening. I dare you…

It hit the interwebs on Friday and everyone, including Goldfinger themselves, have been sharing it like crazy and feeling the warmth of love, ska, skateboarding, and nostalgia flow through them. I am incredibly proud to promote it here on A Perfect Mess. I’m proud to call many of the participants my friends and the NPC a glimmer of hope in a dark world to remind us how sunny the world actually is.

So watch, listen, and feel the goodness…

Many thanks to all who took part!

Keeping it Hot with the Cool Sounds of The Prizefighters – Firewalk

The Prizefighters are a Midwest rocksteady force to be reckoned with, and I have no problem saying they are leaders in their genre right now as a still fairly young band. I first heard them in the infancy of this blog when I reviewed their record Follow My Sound back in 2012. Not long after that, this blog went on a hiatus for a couple years while this band continued to build their mastery of the ska and rocksteady sound. This is no exaggeration.
The Prizefighters have been a backing band for respected legends like Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole and Patsy Todd, Roy Panton and Yvonne Harrison, just to name a few. They have teamed up with legendary harmonica player and vocalist Charlie Organaire on a trio of 45rpm singles (released on Jump Up! Records) and a European tour. When it comes to an American band injecting real authenticity into a Jamaican sound, the Prizefighters have done more than their share of homework. They present this respectfully and as authentically as possible. This is clearly evident when you hear their new album, Firewalk.

The love and deep respect for the ska and rocksteady sounds is loud and clear through this record. In fact, the album was recorded in a 100% analog environment to preserve that sound and energy and it truly has the feel of something straight out of the 1960’s. I was immediately impressed by this. In a modern recording world with so many artists relying on technology to polish their sound, I respect deeply how much care went into the preservation of that vibe that we all know and love. It was perfectly captured. The groove of the record itself from start to finish is purely classic while still highlighting the modern chops of this band.
Right out of the gate, the record is a hitter. The opening track, Just Let The Music Play, has a steady bass groove, great smooth horns, and a gentle but hitting vocal. The next track, You’ll Never Know, kicks the energy right up with a sound that sends you straight back to the 60’s with the beat and the vocal energy. This is a fun song, and the horn and drum work is great, capturing that energy and sending it upwards and outwards. I would look forward to seeing this one done live, it’s a LOT of fun.
As much as I dig the Prizefighters’ vocals, they do a fantastic job with the traditional rocksteady sound as an instrumental as well. The third track on the album, The Accolade, is a great example of what they can do without vocal. Spectacular brass work and that steady chugging groove keeps feet tapping through to the end. Bebop Rocksteady is another one. It kicks right in with those horns to grab you and then holds on tight with a steady drum and bass groove. The thing about these folks is the way they make the music sing without having to say a word. They bring all the energy of an enormous crowd and funnel it through horns and bass to come out steady and smooth.
Skip on over to Burnt Toast and Black Coffee next and feel the energy immediately. That cool sound, great backup vocals, a great modern yet traditional sound. The vocals on this one are probably my favorite on the whole record. The title track, Firewalk, is another one worth mentioning. It’s got a sexy, creeping groove and these quick and shadowy vocals woven in that get right to the heart of the matter, “If the ground gets too hot, you must do the fire walk…” The sax work is really catchy and this track is the kind that will stick with you while keeping you moving. This is not a record to stand still listening to at all. 

All in all, this record is a must have. There is a lot of big talk out there about capturing a traditional sound and vibe in a recording. Usually instead, you get something concocted and over produced. The Prizefighters took their love for that sound and brought it way back. It rings bells in the soul to listen to their work on this record. It’s really, really well done.

Firewalk will be available on CD, cassette (yes!), and digital on February 15th. There will also be a vinyl release on Jump Up! Records later on in 2019, if you want to add some Prizefighters goodness to your library. The band’s record release show will be happening at the Turf Club in St. Paul, MN on February 15th, presented by Ska Brewing. For those of us on the East Coast, we can expect the band for a tour later on this year as well so we can get our own booty’s shaking.

You can check out more tour dates and release info on the band’s website,