4 out of 5
Label: Prizefighter Sound System
Produced by: The Prizefighters (?)
Since my first forays into non-radio music came during the era of ska / ska-punk having some hits – Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger – that was one of the paths down which I walked, branching off into things more ska-y or more punk-y, with the latter taking the lead. My ear never quite adjusted to much of the more two-tone styled ska out there, but it does mean I have some nostalgia for the style which makes me wander back now and then, wondering if my tastes will have changed. They… haven’t. But that wandering does lead me to the occasional outliers who maintain some more traditional rock elements in their music, perhaps even some indie rock leanings, that catch my ear and become new entrants into my hallowed halls of collected music.
Right, now that I’ve word-wanked my way through an intro: I was surprised as heck, when wandering through a many-track sampler from ska enthusiast label Jump Up! to find, firstly, that I enjoyed a lot of it, even if it wasn’t my usual cuppa, but then extremely pleased to find something that stuck out from the pack all the more – The Prizefighters. And, happily, that quality persists across their releases.
Prizefighters are very much an old-school ska sound, but the “rock” aspect to which I refer can be found somewhat in their song structures – not exclusively favoring the offbeat, and having a more traditional sense of buildup and layering one might find in rock n’ roll. And then some of it is purely surface level: vocalist Aaron Porter has this yearning, youthful, scratchy voice that reminds me of Dan Potthast’s (of mu330) singing style a bit, which is – for me – excellent company. But Porter’s lyrics, while maybe topically derivative, also support this, as I don’t often find much weight in a lot of ska lyricists’ words (admittedly a giganto generalism based on a small sampling), but Aaron’s thoughts are well-illustrated, and poetic; he covers some usual relationship business, but it doesn’t feel cheesy or short-sighted.
That does lead into my only knock here, though, which is that these songs do cover similar territory – one’s maybe more about breakups, the other more hopeful, but they’re from the same well, and the music does follow suit to an extent. On a single, I do think it’s good to pair tracks that differ a bit; however, both songs are excellent on their own, and would work absolutely fine on a full album with some variation. Plus, the production is just gorgeous, very raw and forgiving of slight missteps; it has a warmth which gives flourishes of keys and some extra guitar oomph a lot of emotion.
Overall, I’m loving this stuff, and I can’t wait to hear more.