The Club of Hopes and Fears
Ska Satellite/Moon Ska
Scofflaws fans should consider themselves forewarned that this record, the solo debut from the band’s singer/trombonist, doesn’t contain the band’s usual party songs or beerhall sense of fun and festivity. While Tampa native O’Sullivan may be the same guy that penned songs about nude beaches, William Shatner, and the age-old liquor store dilemma of which beer to choose, his much-delayed solo debut showcases a different side of this talented songwriter. With an all-star backing band that includes current and former members of the Toasters, Stubborn All-Stars, and yes, the Scofflaws, O’Sullivan offers up a set of moody and atmospheric ska songs with a jazzy, gritty, urban feel. It’s an interesting portrait, and certainly a big departure from the Scofflaws’ raucous, high-energy, R&B-influenced sound.
A big part of this record’s mood is achieved through O’Sullivan’s vocals. He sings all the tracks through some kind of vocal effects that make him sound like he’s on AM radio. It’s an interesting effect, and helps the album establish its unique feel. “The Neighborhood Song” opens the record, with a staccato horn riff that somehow puts me in the mind of the classic “On Broadway,” although it’s not a similar sound. The song’s easy groove sets the tone for things to come, with a neat electrical buzzing adding atmosphere to O’Sullivan’s tale of urban woe. The paranoid “Whatcha Hear About That?” offers a wild theramin riff, making for a great garage-rock feel, while “Hey Officer” has a vaguely Asian feel not unlike the Skatalites’ “Confucius.” The title track comes closest to matching the Scofflaws sound, but its more upbeat sound is tempered by O’Sullivan’s lyrical tale of unrest. “When My Heart Was New” offers some nice call and response, while “I Gotta Do It Someday” and “The Night Sky’s Turning Blue” are dusky gems in rough settings.
Again, it’s a far cry from the Scofflaws’ brand of beer-drenched ska, but The Club of Hopes and Fears is no less compelling than the Scofflaws best work. O’Sullivan should be justly proud of this one, and you should pick up a copy if you’re interested in seeing just how much he’s capable of.
Moon SKA NYC, P.O. Box 1412, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276; http://www.moonska.com