Push 'N Shove

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In the 1990s, a variety of young bands found a variety of ways to use the ska beat. Many of them combined ska with punk or pop and did so with interesting results; no one would mistake the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, or No Doubt for an authentic Jamaican ska band of the 1960s, but then, none of those bands have claimed to be ska purists. They are rockers who love ska, not disciples of the Skatalites or Toots & the Maytals. Hepcat, however, is another matter. While other bands that emerged in the 1990s offer ska-punk or ska-pop, the Los Angeles-based Hepcat really does sound like a classic Jamaican band. Push 'N Shove, Hepcat's fourth album, was recorded in L.A. in 2000, but much of the time, it sounds like it could have been recorded in Kingston in the 1960s. Most of the music on this rewarding, if derivative, CD isn't fast enough to be called ska; rather, many of the songs recall rock steady, an early form of reggae. From a remake of Brenton Wood's 1960s soul hit "Gimme Little Sign" to Hepcat's own material, Push 'N Shove often takes you back to a time when Jamaican greats like Desmond Dekker, the Wailers, and the Paragons were being influenced by the great soul music that was coming out of Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia -- a time when residents of Kingston and Montego Bay were well aware of what the Delfonics, the Impressions, and Marvin Gaye were up to in the United States. While Push 'N Shove isn't innovative or distinctive, it's heartfelt and certainly rewarding.

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