No Sports

King Ska

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No Sports' Successfools album was an inspired take on Two Tone that subtly updated the style in a number of clever ways. King Ska, in contrast, is much purer in its checkerboarded sound, with only the spy flavored "Heidi" and the Far Eastern tinged "Arabija" breaking the Two Tone mold. Regardless, the group still mix it up, moving from the more frenetic pace of the third wave back to the jagged Jamaican reggae rhythms of the late '60s, then forward to the slower, rocksteady-ish tempo of the British bands of the '70s. In the two years between this set and its predecessor, the group has matured musically, and the many long instrumental intros showcase their new proficiency, with the exultant, flashy brass swamped "Rudy" (a twin tribute to Prince Buster and Madness) and the surf splashed "Heidi" of particular note. Thankfully, No Sports' musicianship has not improved at the expense of their lyric writing, which remains as sharp as ever. Thematically, the album ranges across a wide selection of subjects, from the sympathetic expose of a regular "Workin' Man" with an awkward secret, to the wry ode to the muscle bound "King Kong"; as always, the band deliver up the unexpected. Bemoaning their "Lack of Time," longing for a holiday in "Arabija," dreaming of an "Easy Life," while knowing that tomorrow is the start of another "Fukkin' Week," the No Sports skewer everyday concerns, while desperately wondering how they can finally become "Famous." Incidentally, the aforementioned "King Kong" is a superb studio make-over of one of two live numbers from Successfools. The second, "Stay Rude, Stay Rebel" was also recut and titled the group's four-song EP, which is included here in its entirety. Alongside the excellent title track, there's also the infectious tribute, in French, to the "Tour de France"; the sweet, gentle, "Love Song," romance with an ugly twist; and "Girl (Tango)," another love affair gone wrong, that slides dramatically from emotive tango to upbeat ska. Although not as musically diverse as their previous platter, this set is equally, if not even more, satisfying. These sports detractors are indeed the kings (and queens) of ska.

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