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Prince Fatty Meets the Mutant Hifi – Return of Gringo!

July 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Mr. Bongo Records, 2011

Whether it’s Clint Eastwood, “Red Dead Redemption” or an odd book here and there, I’ve had an affection for western-themed entertainment.  I know it has all been romanticized, for living on the edge with crime, natives, and hot weather abound does not sound like a good time.  But like those James Bond movies, I’ll throw away reality for a bit and sit through a spaghetti western if I’ve got the time (by the way, ever see “The Great Silence”?  That’s a pretty good one.).  Music with western themes isn’t as common place, but when I have heard it (like Spindrift) I’ve gotten great vibes from it.  So of course, seeing a varmint stare down another varmint in a dusty town far from here on a colorful album cover is a shoe-in for my money.  Plus, there’s a song called “The Good, the Vlad, and the Ugly” on here.  It’s gotta be good.

This disc is as good as its cover depicts.  Mixmaster Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi) and multi-talented musician Mutant Hifi (Nick Coplowe), as well as a huge accompaniment of instrumentalists, lay out some of the hippest ska-tinged western music I’ve ever heard.  Okay, perhaps it’s the only ska-tinged western music I’ve ever heard.  Regardless, the entire album paints a picture of a bunch of guys in bowling shirts and cowboy hats skanking at the OK Corral.  It’s not a typically rapid ‘pick it up, pick it up’ type of ska, though.  More along the lines of the Skatalites where you can sit back with beer, have a conversation, and nod your head slightly with the beat.

The first track “Transistor Cowboy” starts off with a gunshot (possibly the result of the album cover’s showdown) and bulls into a gritty tune that sounds like a combination of surf rock and ska.  Despite the audio violence, the whistling that transitions the first two tracks gives off another impression of that sixties western theme.  The multitude of saxophones, trombones, and trumpets on “Black Powder” certainly help invoke that feeling as well, so it isn’t long before one may wish that this really was the soundtrack of a movie one hasn’t seen yet.

It is a blaring start, but most of the rest of the album provides a more relaxing set of tunes.  “Plague of Locusts”, “Across the Border”, and “Up the Creek” show more of a ska influence than a surf one, which allows for a steady toe-tapping session for listeners.  There are no vocals to be heard aside from the occasional clip from a movie/TV show, so one doesn’t have to worry about getting disrupted during one’s low-brimmed, pistol-packing daydream.  The whistling returns on “Son of a Thousand Fathers”, as well as those fantastic horns in a sweeping enchantment.  Mutant Hifi even does his best Dick Dale impression with the guitar, making it one of the strongest tracks on the record.

Though every song sounds like just a cool ska-western concoction that one hasn’t heard before, “The Good, the Vlad, and the Ugly” will probably snap everyone to attention with its take on the “Tetris” video game theme.  The horns, guitar (of course), and the creepy chanting in the background give it a sound that could follow a gunslinger as he or she crosses a desert expanse.  Or it could just be a scene where a bunch of odd shaped blocks are shooting it out while yelling out “Four lines!!”.

Have a look at what Prince Fatty is up to on his website.  You could also listen to the entire record on SoundCloud, but I would be remiss if I didn’t send you over to Forces of Geek for a very comprehensive review and history lesson.  I can write a review, but that guy can take you even further!

This is a great disc.  It reminds me of all sorts of things, from old ska and reggae artists to those spaghetti westerns I like to sit through once in awhile.  It has been awhile since I’ve given out one of these, but Prince Fatty, Mutant Hifi, and the entire band deserve the Golden Dollar.  Not only does this album have a unique swing to it but it also provides an excellent soundtrack to whatever gathering one pulls together.  Not sure how the duo is going to top this one, unless it is a take on film noir or the musical.  Whatever it is I will certainly be there to hear it.

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Seks Bomba – Operation B.O.M.B.A.

July 27, 2011 2 comments

Ya Ya Records, 1999

I’m an absolute sucker for James Bond films. If they’re on the tube and I’ve got some time to kill (or not), I will watch whatever daring episode Bond finds himself in no matter what cheeky humor is going on amidst the gunfire. I know that after Sean Connery left the series there was this big hullabaloo over the merits of Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and some guy named George Lazenby. I thought Pierce Brosnan was okay, even if the movies were much too sheen. Thankfully Daniel Craig rekindled some of the grittiness aspect of the films and, thus, my interest. Therefore, any record that has this fetching of a cover will automatically get some money thrown at it on my behalf. Plus, and I wasn’t sure if it was for real, but the record hints at being a soundtrack for a film. I’m not so sure if I’ve heard of a movie entitled “Operation B.O.M.B.A.” (even if I wish there was), but who cares?! I figured this was going to be good.

Seks Bomba were a band out of Boston, surprise, that specialized in surf and lounge music. Boston is certainly more known for its garage rock and pop, so it’s nice to see that there was a little variety in the scene. “Operation B.O.M.B.A.” does showcase the talents of the band along the lines of a soundtrack, even if it would be hard to gather any sort of continuous plot line from the song titles. Regardless, the whole album an invigoratingly entertaining spree of music.

One could say that Seks Bomba opted to show three sides of themselves. The first, most obvious side is their surf rock affection. “Jet City” opens the album alternates between a frenzied cacophony of organ and drums and a cool, pensive surf style. “Klown Car” sounds like “Jet City” ignited, where it doesn’t opt to cool off at any point during its nearly two minute tenure.  The last track on the record, the double agent of “Seks Bomba Theme, pt. 1-2”, alters between a peaceful accordion introduction and a rousing surf track that befits the band well as its theme.  If you’re looking for some good modern surf music Seks Bomba know how to do it right.

There is also a lot of swing going on throughout the record, including a bouncy “The Right Track” sung by the very crisp, strong vocals of Chris Cote. He gives off a sound that one could easily mistake as being from those days of fedoras and speakeasies, or at least, the type we have seen in the movies anyway. “Bright Lights and You, Girl” is even better with its tone variation between tense emotion and splashy love song. Cote sounds like a guy that could be depressed late night on the strip or skipping through the slot machines as he passionately finishes up the song with one last round of the chorus.

While Seks Bomba has a lot of dazzle with its surf and swing songs, it is their lounge act that transitions each number quite smoothly. “Theme from ‘Mondo Edgar'” and “Rum Holiday” are typical lounge instrumentals, where the latter makes one feel that they’re vacationing on a secluded beach somewhere with drink service.  Seks Bomba’s chippy cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” has all the cute aspects of the original, except this time Dionne Warwick’s vocals are replaced with what sounds like a distorted guitar.  Those classic “woah woah woahs” and “bah bah bahs” are all there, though.

But oh man, the BEST track on the record is easily the surf force that is “Main Title & Love Theme From ‘Satan’s Shriners'”. It is an absolute tear through a rapid clashing of drums, organ and guitar.  After about a minute and a half it comes to an abrupt halt with some eastern-sounding vocals, only to conclude in a blitz.  Although the following song of “Last Call” (a live, raspy and rambling track) could be deemed as the only dud on the record, the energy buzz from “Shriners” carries the listener on for a few tunes until the end of the record.

Check out everything you need to know and hear on Seks Bomba’s comprehensive website!

Unfortunately, if you had noticed the past tense from earlier, Seks Bomba no longer exists. After releasing three records, playing 250 or so shows, and hanging up the instruments after a show in 2005, Seks Bomba are now part of the history of the Boston Scene. Even though they played a lot of music that was mostly popular in the sixties and seventies, Seks Bomba showed with their longevity that there’s still an audience for such genres.  Since I haven’t heard this kind of music since the last time I saw one of those James Bond films, I have to give this record one of my golden dollars due to the good vibe I got.

Spindrift – The West

November 4, 2009 2 comments

Beat the World Records, 2008Spindrift-large

I can personally vouch that Spindrift is a fantastic live band to go see.  I saw them when they opened for the Black Angels and, in combination with the other opener A Place to Bury Strangers, promptly blew the Angels out of the water.  It had something to do with their look (6 or so drifters crowded on a darkened stage) as well as the heavy reverb bouncing around the room during their enveloping western soundtrack.  Seeing Spindrift during their “The Legend of God’s Gun” tour and subsequently buying the album, I can tell you that their live show is better than their recorded output.  Therefore, I knew by picking this record up that, no matter how it sounded, it probably would be much more enticing to see it performed in person.  Still, I had to know.

Spindrift continue their take on dramatic western music with thick guitar, falsetto, and instrumentals.  They really do have a niche talent in adding horns, keyboards, peppy drums and sound effects to construct their visions of gunslingers, caravans, and tumbleweeds.  It’s almost as if they had thought about becoming a surf band but everyone was afraid of water, so they stuck to land.  Some of the tracks have lyrics that are sung but they are almost unwelcome since they are usually unremarkable and blurred by echoed effects anyway.  They do, however, add to the tone that the musicians are wrapping together with their many angles.  The true interest of the songs lie in the pictures painted by tracks such as “Ace Coletrane” and “Frozen Memories”, in which the latter portrays more of a haunting carnival element.  Later, “The Klezmer Song” has a little fun with a different kind of cowboy, I suppose.

There are tracks on this record that aren’t so interesting or successful, so unlike a surf record that can be counted on from song to song to deliver consistent enjoyable output, Spindrift prefers to mix it up.  I do think that this record, which was only released last year, is a bargain to be found if only for its uniqueness.  I almost think that it was a bit of a crime I found it bottomed out so carelessly, but I suppose that’s just more gold for me.  I would recommend this record to anyone who is up for something different, but only if they are willing to listen to it from beginning to end in a sitting.  This release certainly isn’t one meant for singles but instead for an experience.  And hey, if these guys are playing somewhere near you go check them out!

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