Out of Line

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Milwaukee's Out of Line is a ska-rock fusion outfit that plays as if we were all still stuck in 1997 at the height of the third wave ska revival, and more power to them. Formed in 2001, the band is powered by a rock & roll rhythm section and tight horns, and is led by a female singer -- always a good thing in a ska band. Unfortunately, it sounds like they jumped the gun just a bit on this album. On several songs (notably the rather chaotic "Self Righteous Wish" and the headlong ska-core rave-up "Cut of Life"), the group sacrifices rhythmic cohesiveness for manic energy, and on others (notably a disappointing cover of the Blondie classic "Call Me"), singer Suzie Barnett is audibly straining to stay on pitch. On the other hand, the horn charts are almost all very tastefully arranged, and on "Blue Smile" everything comes together very nicely, demonstrating what this band is capable of when fully in control of its material. This isn't a bad debut, but you get the distinct impression that another year in the woodshed would have made it significantly better. Out of Line's sophomore effort will be worth watching for.