New York Citizens

The Truth About the New York Citizens

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One of the Big Apple's most beloved ska bands, the New York Citizens began life as Legal Gender, promptly changing their moniker in 1986 after their appearance on the seminal New York Beat compilation. A steady stream of records followed -- singles, EPs, and the On the Move album -- before the Citizens called it a day in 1994. The Truth About the New York Citizens arrived the following year, the perfect epitaph to the band's glittering career. Hailing from the world's greatest melting pot, the group's sound was always difficult to encapsulate, with their inspiration ranging from '60s Stax to British punk, 2 Tone, of course, as well as funk and dancehall. But that was the beauty of the Citizens, their genuine enthusiasm for myriad musical styles shimmered across their live sets and their recordings. Unlike the next generation of skankers, the Citizens were initially more subtle in their genre-blending, preferring a purer sound, often times with only the lead guitar providing a counter style. "Sticky Situation" is a wonderful case in point, pure 2 Tone, but with a guitar part inspired by the Clash. The hefty "Easier Ways," in contrast, is a new wave tsunami, inflected with Simple Minds, U2, and a screaming guitar solo worthy of any of the New Wave of Heavy Metal axemen. "This Happy Land" serves up funk Stax-style, "Brooklyn's on Fire" follows the urban scene into hip-hop, "Shut Up and Listen" and "Boxer Shorts" splash straight into pure exuberant third wave, "El Front de National" beats off the fascists with its sax-fired reggae, skinhead-style, à la 1968. The Truth exuberantly careens across the Citizens' career, paying little heed to chronology, but sampling freely from singles, EPs, and their album. If that's the meat of the set, the potatoes are the eight previously unreleased numbers, most from the '90s, but the aforementioned "El Front" dating back to 1988. These new songs are the equals of anything earlier, and one is left to wonder why none of these songs previously made it onto disc. But here they are, and fans will be thrilled. So "Shut Up and Listen" to one of New York's finest groups in full swing.

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