Chris Murray / Venice Shoreline Chris

The 4-Track Adventures of Venice Shoreline Chris

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In the wake of the breakup of Canadian ska band King Apparatus, singer and guitarist Chris Murray hunkered down in his living room with a cruddy four-track cassette recorder and made one of the best ska albums of 1996, an extremely catchy and good-natured half-hour of snappy tunes and sonic sludge. It sounds as if he used plastic buckets for drums -- and he plays some of the basslines on the low strings of an acoustic guitar -- but to be fair, the sound isn't that much weirder than the one Lee "Scratch" Perry was creating at the height of the Black Ark period. And those songs! "Ex-Darling" is guaranteed to stick in your skull and drive you crazy for weeks; the rudeboy anthem "Sammy Come a Jail" is the most perfect imitation of late-'60s Jamaican ska ever made on the North American continent; "All-Nite Dinah" is a delicious, greasy, organ-based instrumental; and "Cooper Station Blues," which closes the album, recounts the difficulties Murray had convincing Moon label head Rob Hingley to release the album. Listeners will understand why this album was a hard sell, but they'll be glad that Hingley finally relented.

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