Strictly for Lovers

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Milwaukee's Pacers already had a 7" single and a cassette set under their belts when they came to national attention via their appearance on the first Skarmageddon compilation. The band swiftly began work on the full-length Strictly for Lovers, their debut CD, which Jump Up! Records promptly picked up for distribution. Refusing to be confined to one wave of the ska spectrum, the Pacers proudly showcase them all, ranging from skacore to trad ska, and hitting any number of other sub-styles along the way. Trad seems to have become a bit of an acid test in the ska scene, and they open the set with their take on the subgenre on the exuberant, brass-led title track, a musical theme that picks up where "Strictly" leaves off on the set-closer, "Au Revoir." "Swimming in the Deep End," too, shouts big band, except for the lead guitar that cleverly combines sharp reggae strums with hard rock flourishes, totally upturning the trad tradition. "Poison" plays a version of the same game, this time toppling sharp reggae guitar and jazzy brass into keyboards that slide into jazz fusion, while the Steel Pulse-flavored "Strokes of Reality" slips down into deep roots and dub. That song is an homage to British reggae, "Unity" is a tribute to Desmond Dekker, who had a huge hit with this number back in 1967, and the Pacers have a rollicking time delivering it up at hyper-speed while still retaining the splendid harmonies of the original. Equally frenetic is "Attitude," while "Give a Dog a Bone" doesn't so much skank as rock. The sequencing deliberately plays up the band's eclecticism, but the Pacers' tightness, excellent arrangements, strong melodies, and vocals help identify the group's sound, one that was one of the most exciting on the contemporary scene.

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