Los Hooligans may have run wild across the stage, but in the studio they defied their name to behave like perfect gentlemen, reeling out the most sophisticated and flawless performances imaginable. No wonder third wave fans were blown away by the arrival of their long-awaited debut album, 1997's Traditions. That masterful set established los Hooligans as one of the highest-caliber bands on the scene, a reputation that remained unsullied even as the group underwent significant lineup shifts that saw many original members depart, a host of new ones arrive, and the band expanding to an 11-piece. Now, they're back with a new set, Mafioso Ska. Unlike Traditions or los Hooligans' last cover-filled eponymous set, this time the bandleader, trumpeter/percussionist Tony Luna, composes all but two of the songs, and takes a co-writing credit on one of the remainder. This does not mean, though, that the album is any less musically eclectic; if anything, it's more so, now encompassing the pop-inflected "Any Other Day" (a bit reminiscent hookwise of the Toasters' "Decision at Midnight") and the Far Eastern-flavored "Shanghai Blues." From propulsive, jazz-flavored skankers like "Big Pot Popah!" and "Hannibal" to the lavish swing-styled "This Thing of Ours," and on to the compulsively dangerous title track, this gangster set has it all. There's also a plethora of excellent vocal tracks, the brash aforementioned "Day," the Spanish-tinged "Forget Why You Still Think of Me," the cool stylings of "I'm Just the Foolish One," the bopping "True Love," and most spectacularly, the soulful Stax-styled "Just Let Me Be a Man" among them. Once again, los Hooligans deliver up an album guaranteed to set the entire scene alight, with every track as spectacular as the one before it. It was a long time coming, but well worth the wait.
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