Of all the bands to emerge from the midwestern third wave ska scene, none was so enthrall to the local bars than Deal's Gone Bad, and whose lives, to judge by their lyrics revolved strictly around drinking down at the local dive and hitting on the girls they met there. But it's not all "Good Times," one drink too many and you're "Mad at the World," and put enough heavyweight, beer sozzled, bad tempered types together and you've got a rumble that equal a pack of pachyderms put to full flight. And it's "The Elephants" that open this set with thundering finesse, and whose inspired lyrical metaphors are equal to the number's storming musical backing. "Pirates" is just as clever, even if the only sea these virtue-plundering buccaneers are sailing down is the gutter. It's amazing how the band can make the mundane so dramatic, everyday incidents take on grandiloquent proportion under their pens, emotions are heightened, slights are sharpened, and sexual encounters take on whole new dimensions. Lyrically then, their inspirations are a heady mix of pubby partying, the inevitable crying in one's beer, and the story weaving so integral to the blues and R&B. That latter style also emerges in their music, most obviously on the rocking "Dollar Down," where they showcase it in its purest '50s form, but also streaming through "Good Times," and rampaging in a jazzier fashion on "Elephants." Fabulous jazz brass flavors a host of numbers, coming to the fore on the instrumental "Curse of the Cur." But more uniquely, the horns are just as keen to swing and rock, most notably on "Pirates" and "Dollar Down" where the brass section pays homage to Val Bennett, Jamaica's rockingest saxophonist, while "Leaving Town" proves that trumpeters can rock as well as saxophonists. Slipping agilely from the high-energy skankers through mid tempo numbers, tipping their hats to Prince Buster, the Wailers, the Skatalites, and other legendary Jamaican bands of the '60s, Deal's Gone Bad is trad with a twist, American R&B refracted twice, first through Jamaican ears, and then the band's own. A sensational debut from one of the most intriguing bands on the scene.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene