Album Reviews

Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra: Tombstone

Release Date: Nov 18th 2021

You know that Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra is serious about making music because they can’t be in it for the money. A twenty-piece ska collective needs to add $10 a head just to cover the bar tab.

Following in the footsteps of the great Skatallites, WSTSO brings to the stage the authentic sounds of the originals but with a slight twist of added jazz elements (and when I say jazz, its not the sort that sounds like the band are falling down a flight of stairs). The jazz is driven from the skilfully crafted arrangements of the brass beautifully delivered by musicians who know how to work together.

The first track Monolith opens with a gorgeous run of notes that sets up the whole album, a simple delivery which bounces around the scale and instantly puts a smile on your face. Then, of course, comes the rest of the band creating the driving rhythm of the offbeat sound. Each instrument gets its moment of glory without the overkill of a technical onslaught.

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Not until the third track, Habit of Happiness do we get the silky vocals which helps switch mode slightly as we hit big band territory. The change in style reminds me of the great Cab Calloway singing Minnie The Moocher in The Blues Brothers, not the genre but the visual transformation from a band of ragtag musicians to the perfectly dressed white tux’ed band who are so smooth they ooze. This slight shift only adds to the album, as it takes you from that slight skank and has you adding a Sinatra slide. The highlight to the song is the cheeky ending; I’ve listened to the song quite a few times and every time I’ve found myself with a smug satisfied grin on my face because of it.

The fantastic Grey Ghost (Track 7) is fantastic. It’s simplicity and the odd note change you don’t expect adds the extra dimension.

There is no real stand out track on the album, they all deliver quality, however I am partial to a well crafted instrumental, something to do with my love of dub, and there is no shortage of well-crafted instrumentals.

The album fits nicely into your collection as it could be played anywhere. This is one that can be playing in the background or up front directly into the ears as you power along to the offbeat dragging your dog at a pace that doesn’t allow them any ‘personal’ time, or even laying on the bed whilst you get lost in the subtlety of the arrangements.

If you enjoy the sounds of traditional big band ska, then this will suit you down to the ground. It delivers exactly what you would expect. As it states on WSTSO Bandcamp page: This group of Jamaican jazz gunslingers is rebranding the music of yesteryear and propelling it into the future!

Written By: Catflea Massacre

Limestone Rock by The Pisoegs

Following on from their two previous releases Mental Space Invaders’ Ball and Mental Space Invaders’ Other Ball comes another odd EP, Limestone Rock. There is something about The Pisoegs (pron. pish-oggs) that makes the band stand out from the traditional crowd. It’s not the accent, it’s not the offbeat, nor the choice of instruments. It could be the band’s Irish background, but that still isn’t it. They are the Hong Kong Phooey of the genre, the mild mannered janitors that no one would suspect; the cool characters that come across like nothing will ever truly phase them; however when challenged they will jump in with a plan to save the situation and then just slink back into the crowd knowing they have added something to the audiences life.

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The EP kicks off with the classic track Higher The Monkey, originally recorded by Justin Hynds and the Dominoes; maybe by design or by accident the track exposes their subdued approach to standing out from the crowd: ‘the higher the monkey climbs, the more he expose’. You just have to see their Facebook banner to see not one is comfortable being out front and in the limelight. I may be wrong on this, or I may not. It all adds to the mystery.

The subsequent tracks are written by Patrick Carayannis and he shows he knows what he’s doing. The lyrics are not trying to be clever, again understated, but very effective when added to the arrangements. The mix is subtle, every musician can be heard. There are no sharp edges, each note rolls into the next with ease and tickles the tympanic gland of the listener. 

The stand out track from the EP, if there is one, is the slow, rolling Up She Flew. There is something about the track that I can envision snails skanking down the road to, at the pace a snail would skank down the road.  Although one of the slowest, the lazy brass stabs gives it a counterpoint to the overall atmosphere. The vocals sound like they are a struggle to get out as the vocalist could be dressed in pyjamas, hot chocolate in hand, a pillow calling  as they  undertake a long climb of the stairs. 

This EP is not one to get everyone moving, it is a lay on the bed, headphones in ears and a precursor to a drift. I love this music, it’s relaxing, it’s different to the standard offbeat shenanigans and washes you with a calming influence. The guys in The Pisoegs should be proud of their creation and it’s a brilliant addition to the back catalogue. 

The Pisoegs are one band I’m hoping to see live, and hopefully when we finally get ourselves out of this imposed lockdown there will be a chance.

Check out the album from the link below and for a couple of quid it’s worth adding to any collection… I’m already looking forward to their next release.

 Review by Catflea Massacre

Sentences I’d Like To Hear The End Of by The Bakesys 

No matter the subject, a lesson is only as interesting as the teacher teaching it. Johnny Ball did the impossible, he made maths fun! Likewise, but more modern, Terry Deary’s books and subsequent CBBC show, Horrible Historiesmade what’s often perceived as a dull subject by pupils, somehow entertaining, amusing even. If Deary was my history teacher, rather than a thick-rimmed speccy, bearded beatnik with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket, well, I might just have taken heed of their wisdoms.

Equally, if you want to teach history to a bunch of scooterist skinheads, consider employing The Bakesys, for they are a skanking Horrible Histories, at least for this new album, released last Thursday called Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of.

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Something of an elusive band despite twenty years presence on the UK ska scene, the early stages of The Bakesys reflected heavily on punk inspirations, such as the Buzzcocks, crossed with later developments of a definite Two-Tone influence. Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of takes it to whole other level. Akin to what On-U Sound did for dub in the nineties, sprinkling in a counter culture punk ethos, The Bakesys do for ska. It’s more upbeat than the usual plod of dub, but strewn with samples, heavy basslines, and drum machine loops, it has its elements.

From another angle though, as Dreadzone meld such influences into the electronic dance scene, there’s a contemporary sound, a mesh of offbeat influences with the Bakesys, more in line with the current ska scene. The flood of brass and chugging rhythms confirms its allegiance to authentic 1960’s Jamaican ska. What comes out the end is unique beguiling buoyancy, and it’s absolutely addictive.

Yet we’re only scraping the surface of why, the theme of the album is the kingpin here. Reflecting the era of its influences, subjects are historic affairs based in the sixties. The opening title track raps of Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair. Get Your Moonboots on is on Apollo 11’s moon landing, and the third, most haunting tune, You are Leaving the American Sector takes newsreels of the Berlin Wall. One I’ve been playing endlessly the single of on my Friday night Boot Boy radio show.

Atomic Invasion explores the Cold War, yet, as with Keeler, this sublime set of songs often concentrates more on the personalities than facts of the events. The Space Race is up next, with a nod to Yuri Gagarin’s luminary. Then it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis with the numerous failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Cassius Clay’s rise to heavyweight champion of the world, and Robert F. Kennedy’s assignation.

Despite these often-dark subjects, it’s surprisingly upbeat, as if, like I said, The Bakeseys are the funky relief history teacher, and your class is about get moon stomping! The last three tracks offers dub versions of the most poignant tunes on offer here, yet the album as a complete concept is nothing short of brilliant.

The third CD album released on Bandcamp, and quite the best place to start if you’re unaware of them. Keyboardist Kevin Flowerdew, has self-published the ska scene’s definitive zine, Do The Dog Skazine for many decades, which has released this under its label namesake, Do the Dog Music, so he certainly knows what makes a great sound; which this does with bells on.

By Darren Worrow
Originally posted on Devizine.com

Intergalactic Brasstonaughts

Music For The People by Intergalactic Brasstonaughts

There is something very familiar going on with this album. The Intergalactic Brasstonaughts are a collection of well known alien musicians. Their mission is laid out in the ‘Intro’ to the album, “Greetings, loyal subjects, rank and file, reptilian brothers and sisters…. This is a transmission in the future from the archives of the Intergalactic Brasstonaughts”. The sound is familiar, almost reminiscent of something you have heard before; then the second track kicks in and suddenly you know where you are in the universe, who is playing to you and the feelings of acceptance come flooding through. There’s no need to be scared anymore, you are in good hands, even if they are aliens.

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Drums kick in with a familiar roll and then the defining sound of the band breaks through: the sousaphone, the trip-trapping of the piano like a little spring lamb frolicking in the grass, the empty sound of dub highlighting every instrument as it joins in. These guys know how to make music.

I know the human bodies which house their lizard occupants are putting out sneaky peeks of the album via the King Zepha YouTube channel, but is it really them? It sounds like them, in fact track two ‘Bottom Of The Pile’ sounds more like King Zepha than King Zepha sound like King Zepha. 

The album is a triumph. On first listening I found myself sitting in Tesco car park, window down trying not to look like I thought I was cool, but also thinking ‘This is f*cking brilliant’. Taking a bunch of well constructed songs, adding the elements of dub, striping out the sound and delivering a 1920’s Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes tribute act (and I had to Google that).

Now I could go down the playlist and give a description of every track declaring them all with a bunch of superlatives, however, for me, the stand out track from the whole collection is the mighty ‘Al Baba’; a favourite from the original Northern Sounds album. It is held so close to the original masterpiece, yet stands so far away. The brass section is full, the sousaphone drives the beat, the guitar upbeat and smiley, the keyboard is sporadic and repeats the musical theme throughout. Classic King Zepha. 

The album is set to be released on 16th July. However you can pre-order the album and receive the track ‘Made In Hong Kong’ or you can watch their releases over the next couple of weeks via Intergalactic Brasstronauts | Facebook or Intergalactic Brasstronauts – YouTube

However you get to this album, it’s well worth it. 

By Catflea Massacre

 

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