Tuesday, 5 October 2010

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Everybody Likes a Good Rusty Trombone

rustytrombone

In 2009, the Florida ska-core band Out of Nothing broke up. Realising that over the course of five years they had played alongside lots of other great (mainly unsung) bands, their guitarist/vocalist Mark and drummer Ryan decided a release featuring some of these bands should be made available. The resulting self-financed disc ‘Everybody Likes a Good Rusty Trombone’ features 16 bands (many from Florida, but a few from farther afield) most of whom, as you’d expect, fit neatly into the ska/punk genre.

Baton Rouge outfit No Fuego are a punk band whom don’t quite fit into the skate or hardcore subgenres, but pack a bigger punch than many of the more commercial bands. What their song ‘The Struggle’ lacks in an instant hook, it makes up for with solid musicianship. The guitar work here is aggressive, though quite intricate. The hard edges are joined by bagpipes which add depth; though don’t be fooled into thinking that No Fuego are another band whose stock-in-trade consists of sub-par Pogues-for-punx type jigs in a Dropkick Murphys style. Judging by this track, they’re far more rooted in the punk field – and they’re all the better for it.

Billing themselves as “drunk rock”, the appropriately named A.A. Dropouts offer this compilation’s weakest track. ‘Drink Myself to Death’ is a sloppy acoustic demo recording which brings little in the way of anything memorable. While acoustic-based DIY bedroom punk isn’t exactly an unknown quantity (with bands such as The Ataris and Dashboard Confessional bringing it to larger audiences), this is quite hard to listen to. Still, amid the calypso style mid-section and maraca shaking, they sound like they’re having fun...I just wish it was just as much fun for those not involved.

The marvellously named Johnny Cakes & the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso are on hand to bring you some top-quality ska-punk. In ‘Commando’ they offer a song with a simple chorus and enough chops to stand with the best bands of a similar nature. During the intro, a big horn riff stands alone, filling the empty spaces and during the pre-chorus they create a great build-up. For the main chunk of the verses though, it’s Mikey OD’s rhythm guitar which is the driving force. Being a fan of Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Mustard Plug, I hear so much of their sound in Johnny Cakes...if you’re a Bosstones fan, you’ll probably want to hear more by these guys. (Be warned though, they may have a lot in common with those aforementioned ska-punk bands, but their debut album ‘Rise of the Pink Flamingoes’ features the kind of childish smut and vulgarity you’d find on a Guttermouth disc, so it’s not for the easily offended).

Any song title which mentions unity undoubtedly carries a strong Operation Ivy/Common Rider influence. The slightly ragged production for H1N1’s ‘Wha’ppened To Unity’ reinforces the OpIv feel, while lyrics about unity (naturally) “left over right” and anti-facism provide a good contrast to some of the more ‘fun’ bands featured here. H1N1 have their ideas sorted, it’s a case of “close but...” for these guys, since on the negative side, the chorus isn’t that strong and a sax solo is completely out of tune. For their song ‘Blindfold’, StickCityMafia display a huge set of ska chops – dominated by some very upfront rhythm guitar work, while the vocals have a slurred approach (another nod to Rancid, no doubt). Things turn noisier towards the end with a step away from ska, going further into punk, but StickCityMafia seems equally adept at both styles. Sadly, the band broke up in April 2010. They such great potential; who knows what they could’ve done with a higher budget and proper record label support?

Listing Minor Threat and Rancid among their influences, Georgia band The Erratics specialise in a very old school style shouty hardcore. Interestingly for a band so close to that end of punk, this track features guitar playing which stretches beyond the usual rhythmic bursts and even includes a solo. The Erratics won’t broaden your listening palette, but to think they would is missing the point! Speaking of Rancid, there’s an unavoidable influence from Tim Armstrong and co at the heart of Sobriety Starts Tomorrow’s sound. The meter of the vocal is very similar to classic Rancid, even if the delivery doesn’t ever lapse into Armstrong’s unmistakable slur. Bass player Seth has a very upfront style, though he doesn’t use it at the track’s expense. Sobriety Starts Tomorrow may not be the best band name, but don’t be put off – if this track is representative of their typical approach, they’re great.

I’m not entirely sure what Cryptorchid Chipmunk were attempting to achieve with their song ‘Exgirlfriend x’. It features a casio-tone verse, with bursts of hardcore punk noise, further discordance is added something which sounds like a melodica and electronic (possibly programmed) drums - all of which are then backed by the sound of the girlfriend whittering. It doesn’t even have a chorus. Despite all this, they certainly create an impression, which I’m sure is what they wanted all along.

Opening with a great bassline and some really punchy brass, The Long Johns brand of ska is polished and professional with a strong influence from the greatly missed Save Ferris. Vocalist Stephanie Summerbell has a great, expressive voice (somewhere between Save Ferris’s Monique Powell and Gwen Stefani in sound) and once that’s combined with the really tight musicianship from the rest of the band, the end result is about as good as the poppier end of ska-punk gets.

New Jersey’s The Best of The Worst are one of the best and most interesting bands on this comp. Their sound features elements of metal and hardcore punk intercut with really slick ska breaks. For ‘Sgt Beatdown’, the drums here are really solid – and when combined with the guitar down strokes, this gives the track a chug which has a proper sledgehammer approach. Their horns are well arranged and the ska elements provide fantastic contrast to the hardcore and it’s rare to find a band that’s so accomplished in both these contrasting styles. The track’s closing section features a fantastic hardcore sound, full of double bass pedals and hostility – and having fit all of their best musical traits into just over three and a half minutes, The Best of The Worst are hard to ignore. Not bad for a band who by their own admission formed as a joke.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Diversity Is An Old Wooden Ship is they certainly aren’t aren’t sky about using a big ‘whoah’ for a hook, since they shoehorn one in between each of the vocal lines. It’s an approach which certainly isn’t unwelcome though, especially in lieu of a chorus. The horn section is prominent, though slightly flat (not unlike those early Less Than Jake releases) and the vocals are of the standard punk variety. It’s not one of the compilation’s stand out numbers, though not a skipper by any means.

The Carry-ons are an Atlanta based band, and their track ‘The War is Over’ has a hard punk edge, with a slight skate influence. A strong chorus collides with a great vocal, and the band’s brash confidence keeps their performance buoyant. This has an instantly familiar feel – one which should appeal to fans of Pennywise and War Called Peace. However, their other tracks (streaming from The Carry-ons’ MySpace page) present a band with a broader sound – containing elements of ska and some sharper edges, although always retaining a knack for delivering a decent shout-along chorus. You’ll also find plenty of ‘whoooahs’ from Kicking Pandora, a straight-ahead punk band from Alabama with a slightly lo-fi sound. In just under two minutes, they hit hard with a great guitar riff and their unrelenting attitude.

For good quality, no nonsense ska, another Alabama band, Shut Up Travis more than delivers. Their featured track, ‘Four Letter Word’ has a summery vibe with plenty of brass. If you’re a fan of Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake (the undisputed kings of the Florida ska-punk scene), these guys will appeal to you instantly. With good production and tight musicianship, I doubt that even signing with one of the great punk labels would change these guys at all.

From Tallahassee, Florida, comes Chilled Monkey Brains. Their contribution, ‘VBJ’, features a wall of guitars in an angry but not-quite-hardcore-punk style, underpinned by trombone and an old school keyboard which would make Greg Hawkes from The Cars raise an eyebrow. Each of the bands seven members sounds very accomplished and the production on this track is great. By the time you get settled into the song’s sledgehammer approach, CMB drop their metallic edges and launch into a really sharp ska break which shows a real tightness. ‘VBJ’ is polished without losing any of the necessary bite and has enough quirkiness to keep you coming back for more. Another recommended track.

...And since this compilation was put together by a couple of their members, ‘Everyone Likes a Good Rusty Trombone’ wouldn’t have been complete without a track from Pensacola’s Out of Nothing. ‘Tonight...You’ features a great bass line and some hard-hitting horns, but sadly, it has vocal which is buried in the mix. It’s certainly worth checking out for the horn work, though.

Everybody knows that picking up reasonably priced samplers is the best way to discover new punk bands. If you’ve been a fan of punk and ska music for as long as I have, it’s likely your collection includes a good number of them too. ‘Everybody Likes a Good Rusty Trombone’ is certainly one you ought to check out; while it’s a little and miss, there are enough good bands here to make it worthwhile – and by picking it up you’d be supporting a proper DIY release.


September 2010

‘Everyone Likes a Good Rusty Trombone’ can be purchased from any of the following myspace band links:

Shut Up Travis
No Fuego
H1N1
The Long Johns
Diversity Is An Old Wooden Ship
Johnny Cakes & The Four Horsemen of the Apocalyspo
Out of Nothing
Chilled Monkey Brains
The Best of the Worst
The Erratics
The Carry-Ons

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