The Adjusters

Before the Revolution

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The Adjusters play an interesting combination of surf instrumentals, vintage (not to say hackneyed) R&B, and old-school ska. Everything about them screams retro: the guitar sound, the cheesy organ, the mod jackets and sideburns. They consider themselves a "soul band." They're also social democrats with a penchant for radical sloganeering -- when they're in a good mood, it's stuff like "People make the world go 'round"; when they're in a bad mood, it's "Bam, bam, bam/I tried to take down The Man." OK, so the politics are painted in pretty broad strokes. But they're also smart enough not to try to be an R&B group and a ska band in the same song; throughout their debut album they skip from style to style, delivering a Wilson Pickett cover here ("Toehold," very nicely done) and a smoldering reggae groove there ("People Make"). It's not all equally good, though. In general, they fare better with reggae than with R&B; it's not that they don't play R&B well, it's just that they sound so much like the folks whose licks they've copped that it tends to sound more like imitation than innovation. But "Loose Roots" is one of the most compelling rocksteady tunes to come out this year, and "Special Prosecutor" deserves an award for Best Surf Instrumental by a Ska Band. Lead singer Daraka Kenric tends to overdo it a bit, but Joan Axthelm and Jessica Basta back him up with cool aplomb. This is an auspicious debut from a band that's sure to get better.

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