2 Tone lives! That might well be the rallying cry for San Diego’s own Skanic. Their debut album, Last Call, is loaded with high-energy late-’70s style ska. The surprising thing is that it doesn’t sound dated in the least. Every track here is fresh and exciting, making for an incredibly strong debut.
There aren’t any weak tracks on this record, it’s a good time from start to finish. One of the strongest is the bluesy, rockin’ “Lovin’,” which sounds like it could’ve been done by the Blues Brothers; in fact, lead singer Ross Schutz even sounds a little like John Belushi on this track. Some great vocal interplay between Schutz and guest vocalist Heather Bradley and a smoking Eric (“Guitar”?) Murphy guitar solo make this one a track you’ll be singing to yourself for weeks. Some outstanding horn solos and smooth harmonies make “Love City” shine, while the title track’s smooth feel is more reminiscent of fellow Californians Let’s Go Bowling, invoking the atmosphere of the Specials’ “Nite Klub.” “Chaos” sounds like it could be a jam session between the Selecter and the (English) Beat, but “Don’t Dance Too Hard” is pure Beat, from the “Mirror in the Bathroom” school. Another connection between Skanic and the 2 Tone era is that Skanic aren’t afraid to sing about political issues, as songs like “Yard Duty,” the simultaneously twangy and Russian-influenced “Czar,” and the pro-weed anti-coke “Fine Mess” aptly show. Still, the song that will probably garner the most attention is also the most unexpected — a cover of Nirvana’s “Breed.” Skanic have taken the song and made it completely their own, so much so that on the first listen, it took me up until the chorus to recognize it as a cover!
Overall, Skanic have the goods. This is a really strong band that sounds like they’re having a lot of fun making music. I could see them garnering serious mainstream attention, as this record is very accessible and should appeal to just about anyone. Don’t wait for Last Call, pick this one up right away! Moon SKA NYC, P.O. Box 1412, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276; http://www.moonska.com, http://www.skanic.com