Music Reviews
Close My Eyes

Slackers Close My Eyes

(Hellcat) Buy it from Insound Rating - 4/10

Every year, about springtime, some callow music journalist or fashionista predicts a ska revival. Every year, fledglings of such a cultural volte-face take flight - No Doubt's latest single, Madness the Musical - only to be cruelly hunted down by the falcons of common sense. Meanwhile, of course, ska, Two Tone and their cousins enjoy a flourishing underground scene in London, New York, and elsewhere, while the originators - the Prince Busters, The Specials and their artistic cousins - continuing a bubbling presence with reissues and box sets. Of course one can't deny the importance of Two Tone in the UK; Madness have their iconic status, while The Specials braved the grey days of the early eighties, facing down the BNP at gigs and encouraging, scandalously, black and white people to dance together at gigs. Nevertheless, what this doesn't explain, is why so many US bands seem tied to a rigid interpretation of ska that has gone nowhere since about 1982, when the abominations produced by bands like No Doubt, Crazy Town, and even early Offspring, together with the surely cautionary later career of The Police, should stand as warnings to all those who hope to don a pork pie hat and venture down the curious musical cul-de-sac that is the ska revival.

The Slackers, an experienced and workmanlike collective from New York, with a string of worldwide tours and a stack of albums to their names, are, despite their name, clearly very proficient musicians. They are well versed in ska, reggae and, to a lesser degree, punk musicianship. Which really doesn't explain the need to wear Farahs and do the knees-up shuffle. Despite claims that they are engaged in experimentation, there is no evidence on this album of musical originality; tracks like Old Dog border on self-parody, as whitey sings the (reggae) blues. Real War is a dark and dubby piece of anti-war dreadness, which has been done - and I don't imagine I'm exaggerating - hundred's of times before. Lazy Woman is full of the kind of casual misogyny that would perhaps have escaped without remark thirty years ago, but today smacks of appalling retro-sexism. The pseudo-spiritual biblical spouting of Who Knows is twee in the extreme. Perhaps only Axes, a kind of tango-tinged reggae, rises above the watered down sludge of the rest of the album, suggesting that there is indeed some experimental urge in this group of musicians. Sadly the rigid adherence to anachronistic formulas snuffs out the only promising opening. Truly, this is an album for those who cherish authenticity and faithfulness to genre above all other artistic concerns.

Somewhere, late in the summer, perhaps on the roof of a house near Portobello Rd, overlooking the Notting Hill Carnival, someone will produce this album. That is the sign that it's time to leave. Close my ears more like.