(out of 5)
York City's The Slackers has delivered another tasty serving of
ska gumbo. For 12 years, the band's many members have been pleasing
listeners with a musical melange of ska, reggae, soul, swing, garage
rock and jazz. Their seventh album, Close My Eyes, continues the
trend of excellence, adding 12 new songs to the band's impressive
Repeating chords and an upbeat tempo lend ska its infectiously happy
sound, but beneath The Slackers' joy lurk lyrics of many moods—not
all of them cheerful. Those familiar with The Slackers will not
be surprised by the range of emotions contained within the album.
From the lighthearted "Axes" to the truly heartbreaking
"Mommy," many feelings come through. Ironically, "Mommy"
sounds the happiest of all album’s songs, yet deals with the
saddest of all the topics: a mother's death.
“It was just a shit of a year,” said Vic Ruggiero, The
Slackers’ lead singer, in a press release, “a couple
of years—rough times with family and at the same time they’re
Even with all the recent difficulties, this isn't an angry band.
The most overt expression of frustration on the album is heard in
the song "Real War," an open denouncement of the United
States’ recent choice to go to war. If you look at the cover
of this album, you will see a girl sitting with closed eyes, her
back to the television and newspaper, both bearing photos of the
WTC disaster. The title of the album was taken from Jack Kerouac's
“Visions of Gerard:” “All I gotta do is close
my eyes and it all goes away.”
As Vic said in a recent interview, members of The Slackers enjoy
making “concept albums…not just a collection [of songs].”
As such, Close my Eyes must be a musical chronicle of The Slackers’
trials and triumphs of the past two years.
Saves the Day
(out of 5)
members of Saves the Day, the Princeton, N.J.-based emotionally
surreal quartet who saved high school for a segment of disenfranchised
youths, are concerned.
But that’s not really news to any fans of the band.
Indeed, the band members have amassed quite a reputation for being
concerned—be it with the girl next door, like on the sophomore
album I’m Sorry I’m Leaving, or for the safety of their
own mortality following a nearly fatal car crash in 1999. And fans
have come to expect such concern.
It is that expectation that may cause In Reverie, the Rob Schnaff
(Weezer, Beck, Saves the Day)-produced follow-up to 2000’s
critically and commercially successful Stay What You Are, to throw
some stalwarts for a loop.
The album—which is a complex juxtaposition of ambient beats
and highly infectious, melodic pop sounds—is a very mature
progression of the band’s earlier vision. Incorporated are
all of the Jawbreaker and Bukowski influences, only with a life-altered
facelift that should be praised for its musical bravery.
Developed as an optimistic concept album—less a departure
than an homage to their earlier work—In Reverie essentially
means “in dreaming,” and is a very apt title. The album
splits itself seemingly between the waking world and the dream world,
along the line of demarcation created by the album’s title
The songs before include the catchy “Anywhere with You”
and are well-constructed, imaginative pop songs.
songs after “In Reverie,” however, impressively mix
surreal, sensory-exploitative sounds and dream-derived imagery,
topped off by lead singer Chris Conely’s soaring voice. The
tracks “She” and ‘Tomorrow Too Late” are
among the best on the album and affix the band safely to the style
of their contemporaries and tourmates, Dashboard Confessional and
Moneen. It’s a smooth sound born of sincerity and unpredictability
that sounds most like, well, hallucinatory punk.