Spring Heeled Jack USA
Songs From Suburbia
Oh, boy, are they gonna take a lot of crap over this one. Not from me, mind you — I think Spring Heeled Jack USA (having undergone a slight name change to avoid confusion with the Brit techno act Spring Heel Jack) have made another great record — but ska purists are going to get their knickers in a twist. Songs From Suburbia is a very logical progression for the Jack, moving into a poppier, more commercial ska-influenced sound than their last record, the brilliant Static World View. I say it’s logical because the Jack were never the most “ska-centric” band in the world to begin with — they’ve always had a pop sheen and an energy that came from roots that encompass more than just traditional ska. It’s no coincidence that the lead track on this record is called “Mass Appeal Madness,” as they’ve always had a more accessible sound than the average ska band. In the tradition of the Bosstones, they can almost be viewed as a “gateway” band, one that will lure new listeners into the ska world — and that’s exactly what hard-core ska fans are going to give them grief about. Suburbia goes beyond the “ska” sound (a misnomer anyway — there’s plenty of variety in the genre, it’s not all one “sound”), so far that you can almost hear the sound of the band’s wings spreading.
There’s a sweet and shimmering gloss that coats this record like the hard candy outside on a Tootsie Pop. “Pop” is definitely the word to describe tracks like “Waiting, Watching,” “Morning Sun,” and “Pop Song (Green),” which stick to your brain like bubblegum on your shoe. Songs like the reggae-tinged “Tied Up” and the rocksteady-flavored “Makisupa Policeman” dig deep to the ska side of the band’s roots, while tracks like “Time” veer more to the punk side. Fans of the Jack’s older stuff will appreciate tracks like “Mass Appeal Madness,” “Jolene,” and “MCMLIX (1959),” which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Static World View. Perhaps most intriguing, though, is the album’s closer, “Man of Tomorrow,” which mixes elements of all the diverse styles the album explores. It starts out with a guitar intro that could’ve been copped from the Descendents’ “Sour Grapes,” before leading into a tasty trombone solo, an infectious melody, and some traditional Jamaican toasting. The sound of the future? If so, it should be interesting.
It amazes me that people have already started screaming “sell out” over this record. It strikes me that anyone that can say that has no idea what Spring Heeled Jack USA are about to begin with. When listening to Songs From Suburbia, check your expectations at the door. They didn’t make a “ska” record, they made a Spring Heeled Jack record. What more can you expect? They’re hitting the road soon on a tour with Reel Big Fish, catch `em if you can (and expect to hear the flack start anew over that announcement. Sheesh!). Ignition Records, 902 Broadway, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10010; http://www.igrecords.com, http://www.springheeledjack.com