Push ‘N Shove
Sometimes, when I’m listening to Hepcat, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and sit awestruck, wondering how they got to be so damn good. I’d suspect a pact with the dark lord Satan if they didn’t sound so heavenly. Push N’ Shove finds the Southern California-based seven-piece taking a more reggae-oriented approach than on previous efforts. Don’t get me wrong, they haven’t completely given up on the ska beats and horns, but on most tracks, the emphasis is on slower tempos, heavier bass riddims, and those always-sweet and soulful Hepcat harmonies. Alex Desert may have left the band, but he still provides soulful lead vocals on the cocktail jazz-gone-ska original “You & I” and a rough n’ ready version of “Tek Dat.” Also noteworthy for guest vocals is the sultry “Prison Of Love,” which features lead vocals from the Dance Hall Crashers’ Karina Denike. Stunning and sexy, this torchy dub ballad is undoubtedly a highlight of the album.
That’s not to say that the band’s at a loss when they “just” stick to the core members, though. Check out the passionate yearning of “Coming On Strong,” the traditional ska shuffle of the instrumental, “The Ronnie,” the easy island groove of “Live On,” or the reggae-fied cover of the soul classic “Gimme Little Sign” for just a few examples of the wonders these guys are capable of when left up to their own devices. Hepcat have definitely found the formula to churn out brilliant songs, and even more impressively, they’ve done so without ever becoming formulaic. Crucial.