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September 20, 2017


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Bim Skala Bim
Universal (Bib Records)

By: Alex Steininger

One of the bands that helped start the U.S. ska scene is none other than Bim Skala Bim from Boston. Their brand of up tempo, highly danceable ska is not only infectious and highly contagious, but it amounts to a great time. Taking a hand from clever pop writing, they integrate the pop feeling into their music, making their music very catchy and strong, but still stay away from the category "pop-ska," dreaded by many traditionalists, and die-hard underground ska fans. On their seventh release, Universal, they serve up fifteen tracks that show they are here to stay (and have been) for a very long time.

Right from the beginning they get your feet moving, and quickly put a smile on your face. They even slow it down to let you rest, and your spirit dance. "Pete Needs A Friend" is the song. The horns come in and throw their might upon you, driving right to your soul and soothing it. The drummer pounds on his kit, adding an intense feeling to the music, but he can also calm down and lightly tap it when the time is needed. The guitar keeps your feet moving, and the bass adds power and holds the whole music together, giving it a backbone. The vocals can go fast, they can go slow, they can do whatever is needed to get the message across. They are very versatile. "Johnny O'Reilly" takes the up tempo beats and injects them with speed. The first track was able to make you dance, but this track will give you a work out. Your feet won't stop throughout the song, keeping you dancing and sweating. "Not Natural" slows things down a bit, but still keeps a very edgy and danceable form. The horns are very flavorful, and the percussion has a bit of a Latin feel to it. The vocals are clean and strong, while the rest of the band sets the pace and keeps you dancing. "Freeman" has a very heavy, rock feeling to it. Almost to the point of ska-core, but they don't take it that far. The vocals are not gritty or punk like at all, they still manage to keep their style and remain clean. The percussion beats down ferociously, while the horns shoot their energy throughout the song, and the guitar screams away giving the song it's very rough feeling. "Same Mistake" takes everything down a few notches, and gives you some time to take a breather from the previous track. Swing and sway and just enjoy this song, as it is very gentle. The gentleness will soothe over your soul, and let you forget about all your troubles for a few minutes. You'll feel very safe and happy while relaxing to this track. Then there is "Rings of Saturn" which picks the pace up again, and makes your feet do some work. The horns shoot straight to your head with their intense blows, and the percussion speeds the song up or slows it down when it is necessary. The guitar will get your feet up and skankin', amounting to a lot of fun. "Talk, Talk, And Talk" serves up another delicious track that you'll be able to dance too. Once again the horns are very delightful and add a lot of flavor and emotion to the song, all while the strikes of the guitar keep your feet movin' and groovin' along to the song. "Happy Weekend" closes out this CD with an instrumental. It's very light and danceable, but you can also sit back and just relax to it if you want too. It's versatile like that. All and all, a great ending to a great CD.

One of the pioneers of American third-wave ska, these guys deserve their huge reputation for great ska and a good time. No matter what kind of ska your into (third-wave, pop-ska, two-tone, traditional, etc.) you'll find this CD a treat. I'll give it an A.

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