Say what you will about third wave ska, but it couldn't have come a moment too soon for hundreds of young musicians out there, who previously never envisioned themselves in a band. Sure their were plenty of headbanging punks that didn't need a syncopated beat to take the stage, but what of all those kids who wanted something more subtle, and the multitude equally taken by jazz, swing, and other styles that just never seemed to really meld well with rock? Neo-ska offered the solution, a way to bring together youthful energy with finely honed musicianship. Just like the Allentons, whose debut Boulevard is so wonderfully sophisticated it sounds like it was recorded by a band with at least half-a-dozen albums under their belt. The group are obviously fans of Studio One, but that seminal label's influence doesn't end with the Allentons' covers of two of its classic ska numbers, but imbues virtually all of vocalist/keyboardist Tommy Farias' compositions. In contrast, guitarist Robert Sotelo and saxophonist Leo Alvarez, who also contribute songs, have a jazzier bend. This creates an intriguing hybrid sound that by rights should be deeply indebted to the Skatalites, but really isn't. The Allentons' brass players aren't the showboaters that the Skatalites were, and instead of battling for the spotlight, they generously share -- with each other, and the other musicians. The arrangements are tight and equitable, with as much focus on the guitar and keyboards as the horns, which gives all the songs a much smoother sound than anything the Jamaican legends ever created. The musicianship is exceptional, the many instrumentals, in a variety of subtle moods, superb, and the vocal numbers are a joy. A phenomenal album, and a truly astonishing debut.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene