Imagine a band whose members include ex-Toasters frontman Coolie Ranx, former Bim Skala Bim t-bone legend Vinny Nobile, and Skinnerbox vets Anna Milat-Meyer on bass and James Blanck on drums, with new guitarist Nick Bacon thrown into the mix. Think you have a good idea of what that would sound like? If you said yes, the chances are you’re probably wrong. Pilfers don’t sound like any of the members’ former projects — or like any other ska band, for that matter. Some have called Pilfers the start of “the fourth wave of ska,” and after listening to their self-released debut (which you can only get through their Web site and mail order, so don’t even look in your local stores), I can’t help but think that just might be true. Pilfers combine elements of ska, punk, hardcore, dancehall, pop, and even a little metal flavor for a concoction that’s unlike anything else.

The album starts out hard, with the sludgy, guitar-heavy “Intro.” At first, you might think you slipped the wrong disc into your CD player, but then Coolie’s familiar voice comes in above the guitars, and the song abruptly shifts into the upbeat, poppy “Dr. Kevorkian,” an unbelievably catchy tune driven by Vinny’s powerful trombone. The ska-punky “Yakuza” is up next, followed quickly by the reggae-meets-Rage Against the Machine-styled metal-rap of “Hypnotized.” “Generation” could be a lost tune from the Bad Religion songbook, with its punky riffs and BR-style harmonies, while “Saga” is a sweet, pop-ska ballad, with Vinny taking the lead vocal for a change of pace. “Show No Fear” has a cool horror movie intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Misfits or Independents record, segueing into another trombone-driven track that’ll fill the dance floors. “Roller Coaster” features some nice dancehall-style toasting from Coolie, layered over Bacon’s very metal-oriented riffing, for an interesting juxtaposition. “Shits Up in the Air” has a little more of the metal edge, but the meat of the song is the solid ska groove laid down by Milat-Meyer and Blanck. Other highlights include a cover of Devo’s “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth,” complete with Ramones-styled guitars, and the smooth closing ballad “One Day.”

In short, Pilfers are an incredibly talented group of musicians who have put their talents to the test, and come out of the exam with extremely high marks for creativity. Such originality won’t remain underground for long (the band is already working on their follow-up, which will be on mega-label Mojo), so send off for this records and get in on the ground floor while you can! Pilfers, P.O. Box 1354, New York, NY 10274; http://www.pilfers.com

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