Music Reviews

Gangster Fun

Pure Sound, Pure Hogwash, Pure Amphetamines

Jump Up! Ska

One sentence should give you a better idea of what to expect from Gangster Fun than anything else I could possibly say: Here’s a ska band that cover Frank Zappa’s “Dirty Love!” To say that there’s some pretty twisted stuff here, then, is an understatement. There’s also some damned catchy stuff that will stick to your brain, whether you want it to or not!

Describing Gangster Fun’s sound isn’t easy. They’re a ska band, yes, but they don’t sound like any other ska band you’ve ever heard. There’s an ’80s New Wave edge to their music, which sometimes reminds me of the 2 Tone era (as on the brilliant “Date With Density,” one of the catchiest songs ever written), but more often creates a sound all Gangster Fun’s own. It’s difficult to pin them down, with tracks like “Butt Down Under,” which leans towards a faux-soul/jazz experimental groove, sharing space with stuff like “We Can Still Rock & Roll,” which is almost outright glam rock. There’s also a dark side to the band, most overtly displayed on “Oh, Paranoia,” which gives the feeling that something sinister is going on just below the surface. Lyrically, the band is just as twisted, with songs like “Someone to Love Me (For My Money)” appropriating part of the melody from Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl,” skewed to have the band singing “I’m a rich man, and I got a nice car, ‘cause you know I won the Lotto yesterday.” Trust me, you’ll be singing that for weeks after you hear it! There are similar lyrical witticisms peppered throughout the record (my favorite is “California”’s “I’ve got more power than the church and state combined”). The only thing on the record that doesn’t work for me is the title track, which is several minutes of random sampling. It just brings the record grinding to a halt, but it does go a long way towards showing the band’s willingness to experiment.

At any rate, Pure Sound, Pure, Hogwash, Pure Amphetamines is certainly a unique ska record, but it’s a darn good one, too. Gangster Fun may not be for everyone, and will certainly the listener’s expectations, but if you have an open mind, you’ll probably find yourself singing along before long! Jump Up! Ska, 4409 1/2 N. Greenview, Suite 2W, Chicago, IL 60640, http://www.mcs.com/~jumpup/WWW/homepage.html, jumpup@mcs.com


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