Three brothers from the Midwest form a band and get signed to a big-name label. No, it’s not another insipid Hanson record, these are the Phillips brothers and their band is the Gadjits. They’re probably sick of the comparison, but then, titling one of their songs “Sh’Bop” does nothing but encourage it. At any rate, the similarities end there, because rather than playing insipid, weak pop songs, the Gadjits play a unique brand of ska. While they show an obvious Operation Ivy influence, they’ve twisted that around deftly. Where OpIvy fused pop-punk to ska, the Gadjits have removed the punk element and replaced it with 60s-style soul for a sound all their own.
Listening to tracks like “Tell Yourself,” “Traffic Tickets,” and “Holes in My Shoes,” you’ll trace the obvious influence, but the Gadjits groove where OpIvy would have punk-rocked out. Thus, while the tracks are fun and peppy, they don’t go on adrenaline overload. Of course, the OpIvy connection is intensified by the fact that the record is produced by Tim Armstrong, himself an ex-OpIvy member. At Ease has a mellow mood, soulful, smooth vocals, and a solid rhythmic base. The Phillips brothers are adeptly aided by some amazing keyboard work from their fourth member, non-relation Heidi Blobaum, especially on “Sh’Bop” and the rockabilly rave-up “Need Yo’ Love.” The record is loaded with poppy hooks that will have you humming the tunes for days, from the demented Schoolhouse Rock gone bad of “Bullet in the Mattress” to the surfy instrumental “Corpse I Fell in Love With,” to the sweet soul of the album-closing “Beautiful Girl.”
At Ease is a fun little record with a distinctive sound. One can only hope that the Phillips brothers will be even more successful than their evil counterparts, the Hansons. Hellcat Records, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, http://www.hell-cat.com