Well, this one's apparently a big deal 'cause it was recorded by Chicago noise-god Steve Albini, but honestly, I can't hear it in there (except maybe that everything's live-sounding and a bit muddled). Beyond that, though, this album's a good example of the new breed of ska-punk bands out there these days -- ska with everything and the kitchen sink thrown in for fun. I can hear lots of straight-up punk on here, as well as lots of anthemic, shout-along pop-punk, some indie-rock guitar parts, and surprisingly enough, even some Moog-twiddling...and somehow, it all holds together, if a bit tenuously. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure much of this should really be classified as "ska"; there's at least a couple of ska sections to each song, but really, the loud rock parts tend to predominate. Ah hell, who cares what you call it, anyway...
Now for the actual reviewing: this isn't bad, I suppose (and it definitely beats 90% of the lame ska-punk bands out there -- this is much more Less Than Jake than Voodoo Glowskulls, thankfully), but it's nothing amazing. Decent songs marred by some stupid lyrics ("We Can Make It Happen"'s a particular example); it's not a good sign when one of the songs on here I like the most is a cover (Gorilla Biscuits; "Things We Say"). Pretty typical, generally, but there're a few high points -- "Had Enough," "Tell the Time," "Harry," and "Near and Far" are my faves. And hey, it even ends with a little bit from everybody's favorite nutbar, Wesley Willis, who proclaims that "The Eclectics whups a llama's ass!" How the hell can I argue with that? (JH)
(Jump Up! Records -- 4409 1/2 Greenview 2W, Chicago, IL. 60640, http://www.mcs.com/~jumpup/WWW/homepage.html)
Whitey Ford Sings the Blues
The cover of the new promotional CD from ex-House of Pain leader Everlast touts Whitey Ford's ability to make you remember the last time an album "made you feel something real." This probably has to do with Everlast's switch to real instrumentation. And you can feel something real in the solid grooves he uses to frame these songs. There are some very solid tracks spread throughout Whitey Ford, and he gets help from a lengthy list of Who's Who in hip-hop. Tracks near the end of the album are especially good. About 50% of Whitey Ford is a fine follow-up to Everlast's HoP career.
The problem with this album lies in the instrumentation on the other 50% of the tracks, the ones where he relies more on real instruments. The acoustic and electric guitar sounds on this album are extremely out of place alongside Everlast's vocals. Everlast's singing is not terrible (he reminds me of Michael Franti of Spearhead), but the songs suffer from a real lack of spirit because of his "raw guitar work" (another quote off the promotional CD cover). This guitar work is anything but raw; it's overproduced and dull.
Possibly the worst offenders are the songs "Ends", "What It's Like", and "Get Down", which come near the beginning of the album. There is some interesting turntable and sampling work on some of these tracks, and I've heard much worse lyrics (although the quality goes up and down). But the goofy acoustic riffs that accompany these beats and lyrics make me feel cheated. These sounds would be perfectly at home in songs about summer in the Hamptons, but they do not mesh with songs about life in the inner city. Instead of feeling something real, I am overcome with horror at the possibility that, in an unfortunate turn of events, Jackopierce have reunited and released a hip-hop crossover album.
Several of the tracks on Whitey Ford are phone messages Everlast received from his hip-hop friends. One of these messages, which appears about 2/3 of the way through the album, is from Prince Paul. The message is about 58 seconds of Prince Paul imploring Everlast to let him help on the album. After this track, the quality of the album increases by leaps and bounds. When I got to the end, Prince Paul's message came to mind, and I couldn't help thinking, "I wish he'd called sooner." (JD)
(Tommy Boy Records)