The Slackers

The Great Rocksteady Swindle

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To call the Slackers ska revivalists is to paint them with a brush that's been stained by too many punk-pop acts with a couple of Specials albums in their collections and some big ideas in their heads. The New York-based Slackers have been around long enough -- they formed in the early ‘90s -- to see the ska wave rise and fall a couple of times during their lifespan, and they've maintained their momentum by sticking to ska's core musical values. That doesn't mean they're necessarily sticklers for tradition, though; on The Great Rock-Steady Swindle they deftly manage the difficult balancing act of delivering a real-deal, old-school ska sound while still keeping one foot pointed toward the future. The well-studied skanking rhythms at the heart of the tracks show that the Slackers have obviously done their homework, absorbing the lessons of original ska masters like the Skatalites, Alton Ellis, et al. At the same time, they never attempt to obscure the place and time they come from. The distinctly modern lyrical approach of songs like the character study "Sabina" and the black-humored "Mr. Tragedy," for instance (not to mention the band's distinctly New York-sounding singing) makes it clear that The Great Rock-Steady Swindle is a 2010 album. And ska isn't the only flavor on the menu either -- there's the Stax-style soul of "Thank You" and the dashes of roots reggae and rocksteady that pepper the pot, varying things up without veering too far off course. With a warm, organic production vibe holding the whole thing together, The Great Rock-Steady Swindle offers a winning balance of roots consciousness and idiosyncrasy.

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