Squad Five-O

Late News Breaking

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Though young, Squad Five-O have been at this awhile, long enough to move through a few stylistic phases. There was the hard rock/metal phase, defined by the photo shoot for 2000s Bombs Over Broadway, where the quintet was dressed in Izzy Stradlin novelty wear. Then there was the backwards-hat ska-core of What I Believe, and finally, a 2002 self-titled effort that put them somewhere in the Rancid axis. Through it all there was also the matter of their faith. '04's Late News Breaking is Squad Five-O's Capitol Records debut. It reveals elements of each Five-O phase throughout, but is easily the most succinct and consistent product they've yet issued. The name of opener "Always Talkin', Never on the Run"? Totally awesome. The song? Wiry, irresistible rock & roll with an acknowledged debt to Urge Overkill. Vocalist Jeff Fortson has grown into his ratty Tim Armstrong delivery, the band their raucous-'70s cigarette dangle (check the glitter rock overtones of "Lay It Down"). The cynical pulse of "Bye American" might explain Five-O's current stand on the Man Upstairs. "There's no pursuit of happiness in a land that's void of love," they sing. "Why should God bless America?" That's some strong sentiment for a record that seems pretty happy with its bleary-eyed hard rock skin and top- shelf production (courtesy of rock vet Matt Wallace), but fans who've stuck with the band since the Tooth & Nail and Diamante days will no doubt be searching for a sign. As for the rest of Late News Breaking, a handful of ska-inflected numbers work well enough, particularly the Two-Tone-influenced "Secret Society" and "All We Have," which again references Rancid. Other highlights include "Train of Shame" -- "missile" is rhymed with the gibberish word "kissle," but damn it's a hooky track -- and thudding closer "Everything." Squad Five-O still needs some seasoning, some settling down. But this Late News Breaking is promising.

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