With summer finally starting to go here in Pennsylvania, my mind immediately starts drifting to great ska records. Something about warm days and sunshine makes the warm, wonderful sounds of these records the perfect fit.
Westbound Train is part of the newer roster of talent over at Tim Armstrong's Hell-Cat Records, and they reflect everything I loved about the first batch of bands he signed. They are totally traditional ska (i.e. not punk-ska, ala The Mighty Mighty BossTones) with fantastic vocals and laidback instrumentation accented by tasteful horns. As with all great ska acts, gospel is just as important to their sound as reggae is. They have had a number of releases on various labels, and even a few on Hell-Cat Records, and "Come And Get It" is their most recent, having been released just back in May. Standout tracks include "Check Your Time," "Come And Get It," and "Lift My Voice Up Loud." If you are hosting a barbecue and need the perfect soundtrack for it, you could do a heck of a lot worse than "Come And Get It."
Come And Get It - 8 out of 10
Here is Westbound Train performing the song "Come And Get It" at a small show recently. This is just a taste of how great these guys can be.
The way Rancid released "Let The Dominoes Fall" is a media blitz of the highest degree. The internet caught wind of a new Rancid project to be released as far back as a year ago, all over their last few tours Lars Fredriksen had been announcing a new record to be released on their own label, Hellcat Records (I know this because I saw them last August) and dubious preliminary announcements had been flooding Myspace and other social networking sites for months. Leading up to the actual release, you could stream the album for free on basically every website on the internet, you could pre-order the album for a chance to get (in my case) a T-Shirt, several stickers, 3 reversable posters, guitar picks, a copy of the Roots Radicals E.P. on CD (?) an acoustic CD, a DVD of the making of the album, and. . .oh, yeah, the actual album.
Is "Let The Dominoes Fall" everything it's choked up to be? Well, that's a complicated question. Yeah, it's a fantastic Rancid record, but, really, are any of them bad? I certainly don't think so. The differences between this album and its predecessor, "Indestructable" are not really that huge. They are both well-produced punk records with a tasty ammount of ska, soul, and hiphop-influenced tracks mixed in to create what is by now the classic Rancid blend of styles. Both are chock full of personal stories, both are a bit angry (though always hopeful about the end results) and have fantastic sing-a-long tracks throughout. The only thing seperating these two records is the media hype behind one ("Let The Dominoes Fall") and a major label behind the other ("Indestructable.")
What I think is really great here is the acoustic side of Rancid that is emerging on this project. Songs like "Civilian Ways" (a great country-tinged song about soldiers returning from the current war and becoming part of society again) allow Tim Armstrong's songwriting ability to shine through in a way that no other musical style would allow.
"Let The Dominoes Fall" is destined to go down in history as Rancid's "comeback" album, though I disagree with this sentiment. This band never went anywhere (in terms of writing great music) they just remembered how to embrace fame in a very punk way.
Let The Dominoes Fall - 9 out of 10.
When The Runaways first appeared in the 1970's, people were shocked to hear a female rock group that had such attitude. Who knew that the girls could rock just as hard as the boys? Since then, groups like L7, The Gits, and The Distillers have kept that tradition alive by recording aggressive, snotty music that women can identify with and men can respect.
Civet is a fantastic foursome of femme fatale rockers drawing influence not only from the women who blazed the trail for feminine rock, but also from gritty barroom rockers like Motorhead. Their first release for Hellcat Records, "Hell Hath No Fury" is a blistering explosion of grimy fuzz, snarly vocals, and feedback. The worst one can say about this record is that all the songs are of similar tempo and dynamic, but really is that a bad thing? When you're in the mood for high adrenaline rock for blasting in the car, why bother messing with what works?
Civet - Hell Hath No Fury - 8 out of 10.
I think the video for "Son Of A Bitch" speaks for itself. Enjoy.