Chawalaleng (Mojo Records)
By: Alex Steininger
After selling 10,000 records through their web page, live shows, and, during the latter stages of their indie release, distribution through Radical Records, The Pilfers deserve all the attention they can get. The fact that the band revolves around Coolie Ranx (ex-Toasters) and Vinny Nobile (ex-Bim Skala Bim), two leaders in ska's revival, and the fact that ska was at the height of its popularity didn't hurt. But, the fact still remained the band was on fire musically, as well as on stage, and as word grew about their live shows, and their relentless touring brought them from East Coast to West and back again, the demand was too high for any one band to take on. Hence, their second album, and debut for Mojo Records. The outcome is their trademark mixture of hardcore, punk, reggae, and ska.
"Agua," the opening track, is a crunchy reggae-gone-punk number. Coolie's vocals add a deeply melodic sense to the music while the rhythm section and the guitar work together to place the hardcore deep in the center of the music. The horns enforce the melodic nature of the music, but they're not afraid to back up the hardcore crunch of the song either.
"Mr. Exploita" is another example of the band's ability to go from heavy reggae to hardcore-centered grooves. The distortion of the guitar roars through the song while the horns beefy notes impress upon the song a deep, cloudy sound that adds even more hardcore depth to the overall picture. But, despite the general hardcore sound of the song, they still manage to keep things danceable (AKA the reggae alive), as well as melodic.
They haven't given up on the ska, either. "What's New (Here We Go Again)" continues on with the band's ska-punk-reggae sound. The light verses whirl around in your head until they reach your feet, and then you'll be hitting the dance floor. The heavier chorus hits you like a ton of bricks, giving the song the custom edge that the Pilfers thrive on. All the while, Coolie's accent fuels the reggae; And, Vinny's lead vocals endorse a poppy feel to the music that backs up the ska portion of the song and makes it that much more lethal.
A re-recorded version of "Hypnotized" (the original can be found on their debut CD) gives Vinny another chance to shine. His sweet, melodic voice keeps the pop alive in the song, making every word swim around in your head, while the guitar's upbeat sends the urge to dance right to your feet. And, once again hitting you like a ton of bricks, the song's hardcore vibes, along with Coolie's Jamaican accent, are thrown at you during the chorus, which also finds Vinny digging into his hardcore roots as he screams with unmatchable intensity.
Though Coolie is the main vocalist, Vinny sings lead on a few songs. Another song he sings lead on is "Saga," another re-recorded cut that originally appeared on their debut. This song just happened to be my favorite on their debut, and, well, made its way to the top of my list on this one as well. An infectious pop-ska ditty, you'll be hard-pressed not to enjoy this one, regardless of what you think about ska and/or pop music. Its intensity and sweet, sugary taste are two things you can't pass on.
"P.C." is another fine example of Coolie's lead vocals fueling the reggae in their sound, while the band crunches away with some hard hitting hardcore and punk beats. Of course, always a band for a great melody, they never pass on the chance to hit you with a few hardcore beats and then smooth the wounds with some infectious grooves.
With the same intensity and drive that made their indie release an underground favorite, The Pilfers are back at it again. CHAWALALENG, though I have no clue what it means, is a solid album that cruises down the reggae, punk, ska, and hardcore paths, often crossing, with ease. I'll give this an A.