Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The legendary American band, The Slackers, are back with a new full length album, The Great Rocksteady Swindle, on Epitaph/Hellcat Records. What began in New York City some 19 years ago has grown into an international musical phenomenon that blends ska, rocksteady, dub, R&B, Reggae,Soul,Garage Rock, and 60's pop into what leader Vic Ruggiero calls, "Jamaican Rock n Roll."
The Great Rocksteady Swindle is the Slackers 12th studio album and is a credit to the bands continuing vitality and longevity in the music scene. Bandleader Vic Ruggiero observes, "We learned from guys like Rancid that were offered the MTV ride and we watched them not take it. We watched bands that did take it. And who had more trouble? In the end, the MTV ride is more trouble than it's worth." He adds in summary: "You've got to be good to your fans and your people and know where you stand."
Hillyard adds, "For years, we didn't really have much in common with any of the ska scene," he adds. "There were a couple bands, like Hepcat and Pietasters when we started, but then for a lot of years we really felt like we were on our own."
These days, that's changing. With more bands cropping up who draw from the same basic starting points, even citing The Slackers as a major influence, the proof is in the pudding that perseverance is what wins the race.
The new album is a collaborative effort from Hillyard, Vic Ruggiero (keyboards, vocals), Jay "Agent Jay" Nugent (guitar), Glen Pine (trombone, vocals), Marcus Geard (bass) and Ara Babajian (drums) with all members contributing to the songwriting."Long Way Off," "Mr. Tragedy" and the electric "Cheated" are immediate standout cuts on an overall strong album. With its mix of realism, optimism, and bitterness The Great Rocksteady Swindle is exactly the type of musical antidote needed in today's angst-ridden climate.
Along the way, the Slackers bury the stereotye of "ska" bands being upbeat and shallow in the songwriting department. Ruggiero points out "Marcus writes these upbeat songs that sound like they're really positive but you get the weird impression that they're maybe written by a homicidal maniac."
Ruggiero wrote "How it Feels," which asks "do you remember how it feels to be lonely?," while in Greece. He points to "Because" as another of his favorite tracks on the album, explaining of the songs lyrics: "All the people you want to know for the rest of your life, that's the people you are most likely to never talk to again. Like an ex-wife. Why did you marry her? Because you got along. And then what? Where did it go from there?"
The Slackers have been able to maintain and keep things moving for a long time, never slipping and never forgetting their mission, which is to give their fans music that is equal parts craft for the mind and rhythm for the body.
There are many parallels with The Slackers and bands like The Ramones or even The Grateful Dead in that sense. "We're trying to make music to last, something that you want to listen to years from now. We've never really been part of a trend. We've always been on the edge of different trends," explains sax player Dave Hillyard. "It's one reason why we haven't gotten hugely famous but also one of the reasons why we've stuck around so long."