Skavoovie & the Epitones

Skavoovie & the Epitones

The Growler

Shanachie

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Skavoovie & the Epitones, spreading their wings and flying high on their amazing new album, The Growler ! Remember how much better their previous album, Ripe , was that its predecessor, the now-classic debut Fat Footin’ ? Well, multiply that by ten, and you’ll have an inkling of how much the band has grown since Ripe ! The Growler is about as perfect as a ska record can get — about the only way these could get any better is if they were being played live in my living room!

One of the most obvious signs of the band’s progression comes in the vocals. Ans Purins has developed into a confident frontman for the band, and that confidence shows in his voice — he really belts through tunes like “Texas Size,” and when he shouts “You can take your stars, and you can take your bucks, stick ’em up your ass, coffee sucks” on “The Coffee Connection,” you can’t help but notice the difference. What’s even better is when he uses that voice in contrast with guest vocalist Anne Harris. Their voices complement each other better than chocolate and peanut butter, especially on the bittersweet “Lucy” and “Salad Days.”

Skavoovie also experiment with a lot of new sounds, and the results are stunning. The eerie, Doors-like “Zombie Song” is an unexpected and exciting departure, as is the relentless paranoia of “Tiny Machines” — when the band stops cold for the line “I don’t believe in God, I believe in tiny machines,” it’s a truly chilling moment. The acid jazzy instrumental “Any Which Way” is absolutely beautiful, with a cool flute line from guest Michel Gentile at its core. The western flavor of “Boyo” (penned for the band by “Venice Shoreline” Chris Murray) has been a highlight of Skavoovie’s live shows for a while now, and is a welcome addition to the album, as is the spacey jazz romp “Captain Future.”

That’s not to say that the band has abandoned its signature sound. Au contraire, fans of those powerful old-school Skavoovie instrumentals will want to keep an ear out for “Sharp Teeth,” “Theme From Foster’s Ghost,” and “Desert Gold.” Of course, the patented Skavoovie horn assault is in full effect — all 5 horn players get several shots at the solo spotlight, and I was quite impressed by the mature keyboards from Eugene Cho. Co-opting Skalars guitarist Ethan D’Ericole was a smart move, too — his rhythms blend smoothly with bassist Rob Jost and drummer Ben Herson. In spite of all the experimentation, this still sounds like a Skavoovie record, which is most definitely a good thing!

Words can’t begin to express how good this album is. No matter how much praise I heap on The Growler , I feel like I’m still not doing it justice. Suffice to say, Skavoovie & the Epitones are virtually guaranteed a spot on my personal ten best list this year — in fact, it would take an absolutely mindblower to knock this masterpiece off the top of said list. Pick this up at any cost.

Shanachie, www.shanachie.com, www.hblc.com/skavoovie.

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