I tried, really I did. I tried to get through at least one track on this record without screaming in agony. On paper, it sounds like an OK idea. You get some really talented ska musicians together and form a supergroup, and set that group to recording a record full of covers of punk classics. The problem is passion. There’s not an ounce to be found on this record. You get the feeling that the musicians are only doing the record for the money, saving their energy for their day jobs as members of the Slackers, Mephiskapheles, Ruder Than You, and others. This ethic doesn’t work in punk OR ska (or any other form of music, really), and it shows.
Then there’s the matter of song choice. The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.,” and the Holy Grail of punk rock, the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”? These are not songs that were meant to be played in a rocksteady style. Slow them down and take out the buzzsaw guitars, and you rob them of all their power. Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take the Skinheads Bowling?” This is a punk song? It can make for a good ska tune (Tampa’s now-defunct Hopscotch did a pretty good version), but not at half-tempo. The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” and Patti Smith’s “Because the Night”? These versions literally sound like elevator Muzak. The only tracks that come close to success are versions of the Buzzcocks’ “Orgasm Addict,” done as a playful duet between the Slackers’ Vic Ruggiero and Ruder Than You’s Doug Dubrosky, and Blondie’s “One Way or Another,” which doesn’t sound all that different from the original.
I understand that these guys need to pay their rent, just like the rest of us. I don’t begrudge them their participation for that reason alone. But this business has got to stop. This is the second record from this “band,” and it’s two too many. Please, if you love ska or punk, don’t buy this record. Stop the madness. Shanachie Records, 13 Laight St., New York, NY 10013; http://www.shanachie.com