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November 23, 2017


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Everything Off-Beat
A Radio Benefit CD of Chicagoland Ska (Jump Up! Records)

By: Alex Steininger

As West Coast ska gets all the media attention, a big scene is bubbling up in the Midwest. And Jump Up! Records is there to bring it to you. Chuck Wren not only runs the Midwest's biggest ska label, Jump Up! Records, but he also is the DJ for a weekly (every Monday) ska radio show on WCBR-FM 92.7 from 10pm to midnight called "Everything Off-Beat." Putting two and two together he came up with the ingenious idea to put out a compilation of some of the bands that get air play to benefit the radio show, for you, the listener! And even if your not in the Chicagoland area to enjoy his program, this CD might be for you!

Hot Stove Jimmy starts out the CD with "Downsides Ahead". A full attack of ska-punk mayhem sure to please. The beats are meaty and loud, while the horns add a little lighter feeling to the melody, to perfectly contrast everything. Skagina's "Puppy Love" brings in some more ska-punk. The guitars thrash when they want to, while the upbeat can be played when they want to make you dance. The drums are always hard hitting, pounding the melody into your head. The horns emphasize each note, adding strength and depth to their already strong mix. And when they cut to just drums and horns, the horns are very soothing and emotional. They'll bring the best out of you and keep it at the forefront. Eclesctics' "The Fireside Song" has a very strong punk influence, not only in the music, but in the vocals as well. The vocals are very gruff, and have the punk snarl going on. This song will get you dancing during the verses, and smash you against the wall during the choruses. Dr. Manette's "15 Labels" starts out with a minute and fifteen seconds of hardcore with horns, before jumping into some very up tempo third wave ska beats sure to get you dancing and keep you dancing. After you get past the over lengthily intro, the song is one of the best on the album. The Monsignors show their love for WWF wrestlers with "Introducing Razor Ramone." Once again, a minute of terrible noise has to be cut through before they jump into some decent ska. But then they ruin the song by jumping back into the noise. If anything, just fast forward past this track. It's not worth listening too. Skali Baba & The 40oz. Horns serve up "The Day From Hell," an upbeat, third wave ska song with roots in swing. No distorted guitars here, just straight forward ska that will get you swinging and skanking the night away. The MIB's horn section will brighten up anyone's day on "It Won't Die." A slower, third wave ditty that will get you dancing and smiling in a heart beat. The vocals are smooth and soft, rattling in your head, and eventually getting you to sing along. This is probably my favorite track on the CD. Very clean, and just a fun number to dance too. Tango Wedding Band picks up the pace with "Straighten It." Fast ska beats that will make your feet go crazy drive the song, while the slight punk influence keeps things edgy and powerful. The guitar goes from upbeat to slight punk in moments, and always keeps things interesting. The Modocs end it with "Ga Ga For Gwen." This is basically a lo-fi punk assault. The song is about a girl named Gwen, take a stab, you'll get it right! The choppy ska beats and horns try and convince you that this is a ska-punk song, but for the most park it's just a punk song with ska influences. If it were better recording it might be good, but at this point it just falls short.

As you can see, this CD covers the modern third wave ska moment in sound. You've got melodies that will make you skank, melodies that will make you slam, and melodies that will let you relax and have a great time. And if that wasn't enough to make you want to get this CD, remember, it helps support "Everything Off-Beat" on WCBR Chicago. Give it a shot, you'll enjoy this CD. I'll give it a B.

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