Highball Holiday

Highball Holiday

Highball Holiday

Moon Ska/Ska Satellite

Based on their stunning contributions to the recent compilations Skarmageddon 3 and Girls Go Ska, I had extremely high hopes for the debut album from Milwaukee’s Highball Holiday. The two tracks, “Poetry in Motion” and “Why?,” respectively, are shimmering examples of soul-ska at its best. Unfortunately, they’re also the two best tracks on this album. That doesn’t mean this is a bad disc, by any stretch, it’s just not quite as stellar as I’d hoped.

First of all, lead vocalist Shahanna McKinney could probably sing the Captain and Tennille’s Greatest Hits and make it listenable. She has one of the finest voices not only in ska, but in music as a whole. This puts tracks like “South Africa” and “Skinhead Girls” a giant step above where they’d be without her. Even when she turns the lead vocals over to rhythm guitarist Matt Norberg on “Wake Up Call,” it’s her backing that gives just the right accent.

Putting aside the amazing vocal talent, the band that Highball Holiday will probably draw the most comparisons to is Isaac Green and the Skalars. Tracks like “Multiple Personality Disorder” and “Playground” have a definite Skalars air to them, which leaves me to wonder if, like the Skalars, they’re much better live than on record. Tracks like “Playground,” though, set Highball Holiday far enough apart to keep them from being mere knockoffs.

My only real beef with this disc is the inclusion of alternate versions of three tracks on the end of the disc, which comes across as padding. If you’ve only got ten tracks ready to go, then just record ten, don’t waste my time with filler. Other than that, it’s a good start for a promising band, one which I hope to see greatness from in the years to come. Ska Satellite/Moon Ska Records, PO Box 1412, New York, NY 10276, http://moonska.com

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