Dub Cookery (Simmerdown Productions)
By: Alex Steininger
Hailing from Toronto, The Skanksters fuse traditional ska, dub, and beautiful female vocals together to create an equally beautiful sound. Ranging from soft and delicate to rough and tumble, the band is able to shake things up while keeping their sound, well...always sounding like The Skanksters' sound.
Opening up with "Accusations," the overbearing upbeat makes a powerful entrance, while the female-fronting vocals help to keep the song a bit toned down. Keeping everything steady, the percussion section plays along with the vocals nicely. With the two on the job, everything seems to fall together evenly. The bass adds to the texture of the music even more, making sure the tight beats of the rhythm section are pulsating and lively. Light flurries of horns smoothly dive into the song, gift wrapping the entire package for the listener.
"Hempsong," with a very repetitious chorus that seems to not know when is enough, rings through your head and quickly becomes the easily recognized song on the disc. As you could have guessed, the pro-hemp number uses the repetition to pack their message deep inside your brain. Although a bit annoying after several listens, they do manage to successfully get their message across and keep it there (in your head). The steady traditional ska-dub number also uses the relaxing and gentle tone of the song to allow you to sit down and slip into it -- convincing you that much easier of their message.
Coming full circle with the dub, "Push to Shove" allows the band to fully voyage off into the dub world. Haunting vocals flow through the song softly, while the bass tiptoes along. The rhythm of the drums gets your feet tapping, then progresses up your body to move the upper torso. Not as dance-friendly as their more ska soaked numbers, the vibrant beauty and female vocals that you'll come to love are still present to warm your hearts while you listen, so the song easily fits in on the disc. So naturally in fact, they didn't even need to refer to the song as the 'dub mix.'
"Lisa's Baby" shows the band in the instrumental environment. Leaving out the female vocals, though, is a big mistake. The band, although quite efficient, doesn't seem to be able to manage on their own. The trademark style of the vocals is what gives the songs, and therefore the band, the life they need to truly make an impact. Without them, the song was just a boring dub number.
But, expanding your sound and testing new things is a good thing. You just need the female vocals, and from there you can begin to experiment. As is properly shown on "Only Once A Stranger," which puts the lead female vocals next to male vocals in duet style. Not bad...not bad at all. Fairly up-tempo compared to the other numbers on this disc, it has no problem getting you dancing and feeling good.
A bit drawn out at times, the majority of the disc manages to escape this syndrome and serve up simply put, good music. On the first listen you'll fall in love with the vocals, and subsequent other listens will find you more and more in-tune with the music. I'll give it an A-.