Music Reviews




I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new disc from New York City’s Pilfers for months, and I’m glad to say that it was well worth the wait! Chawalaleng is a logical yet surprising progression from their self-released debut, taking their distinctive, original, and heavy ska sound to the next level. The result is an accessible and exciting record that could single-handedly reignite mainstream interest in ska-oriented music, and one of the more compelling releases to make it’s way to my ears this year.

I was a little surprised by the overall darker feel of Chawalaleng . Where the band’s debut was anthemic and explosive, this record is heavier and more atmospheric. There’s a definite weight to most of the album, a density that would ordinarily be more at home on a metal or industrial record than in ska music, but somehow, Pilfers make it work. “Mr. Exploita” slithers along like a snake on the back of Anna Milat-Meyer’s wicked bassline and Coolie Ranx’s magnetic vocals, while “Why” has a sinister and sexy vibe that hypnotizes the listener the same way a vampire uses his gaze to seduce a nubile young female victim. Likewise Milat-Meyer’s bass drives the downright spooky title track, which features Vinny Nobile’s ever-masterful trombone work.

That’s not to say that the whole record is dark, though. “What’s New (Here We Go Again)” has a poppy, almost 2 Tone flavor sure to get the dance floors moving, and tracks like “Agua” and “Choose Life” have that old shout-along flavor. “Lay” marries the anthemic qualities to Pantera-worthy guitar riffs and an truly unusual bridge, and “Skungle” is dancehall riddims contrasted with more metallic guitar courtesy of Nick Bacon.

A few tracks from the self-released debut also resurface here, in all-new, all different versions. “Climbing” gets a darker, heavier groove with some cool vocal effects, while “Saga” brings Vinny’s vocals to the foreground for a poppier feel, and “Hypnotized” gets a downright spooky bridge to go with it’s chugga-chugga guitars and malevolent trombone. I was also pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of “Legal Shot Pam Pam,” a song Coolie was performing in embryonic form with the Toasters years ago. It’s a definite highlight of this record, with Coolie’s inimitable toasting and the addition of a Blondie-esque guitar line and a “street” feel that would be right at home on a Lucious Jackson record.

Overall, Chawalaleng would be a worthwhile collection to any record collection. Once again, Pilfers marry the best elements of a variety of music to create a sound all their own, without losing the ska roots. Even if you’re not a ska fan, I’d urge you to check this one out – I’m certain you’ll find something of interest, no matter what your tastes.

Mojo Records, 1453 14th Street, Box 284, Santa Monica, CA 90404;

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