Music Reviews

Voodoo Glow Skulls

The Band Geek Mafia

Epitaph

In 1988, guitarist Eddy Casillas and his bass-playing brother Jorge convinced their older sibling Frank to sing at an after-school jam with friend/drummer Jerry O’Neill. His acceptance marked the beginning of Voodoo Glow Skulls as a punk band. Three years later, bored with the hardcore sound, the foursome twisted it by adding Joey Hernandez on sax, Joe McNally on trumpet, and Brodie Johnson on trombone. Three full-length albums and more than 2,000 gigs later (the band has toured Japan, Australia, Europe, and North America) Voodoo Glow Skulls is a bilingual ska-punk sensation.

On The Band Geek Mafia, the band’s fourth album, the septet sounds better than ever, with plenty of frenetic yet cheerful head-bangin’ supply for its legions of ska/punk fans. Produced by John Avila (Oingo Bongo, Reel Big Fish), the icons of orchestrated-punk present 14 tracks that sit like a caffeine pill at three in the morning. The brisk portfolio includes “Love Letter,” a straight punk tornado destined to alert anyone in its path, and the happy-go-lucky “Walkin’ Frustration,” which, with its progressive walking-bass pattern, leans toward swing. The polka-spiced ska “Left for Dead,” the hostile hardcore sound of “Brodie Johnson Weekend” (the first single), and the enduring melodious punk in “Delinquent Song,” would be nominees if there was an award for punk song of the year at the Grammy Awards. Special mention goes to the Little Richard-like piano groove in the Fifties vaudeville-goes-punk “Stranded in the Jungle.” Since Voodoo Glow Skulls re-recorded their second album, Firme, in Spanish, and with three songs in El Baile de los Locos (their third) sung in the Latin language, the fact that it is difficult to understand the lyrics in the vastly accelerated “Yo No Tengo Tiempo (Para Ti)” the only track in Spanish in The Band Geek Mafia, is unacceptable.

While The Band Geek Mafia fails to present anything different from what they have done in the past, the Voodoo Glow Skulls are still the preeminent ambassadors of Latino hardcore-ska. The ultra-potent sound in The Band Geek Mafia adds another chapter to their narrative book about the compelling history of modern ska/punk. This album will either fascinate or horrify new listeners; there is no middle point here. For ska/punk followers, The Band Geek Mafia will exceed the expectations created by the new release of Voodoo Glow Skulls, challenging your eardrums to hold on to the powerful reverberation offered by this production. Epitaph Records, 2789 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90026


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