Los Skarnales

Vatos Rudos

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The advisory stamp that graces Vatos Rudos is issued as a warning -- though not in the way you might think. Virtually identical in style to Tipper Gore's indelible contribution to music industry censorship, the imprint hasn't a thing to do with explicit contents -- that is, unless tightly wound ska-punk rants sung in a band's native tongue is your idea of obscenity. Look closer and you'll see that, stenciled in the pair of thin black bars sandwiching the familiar "ADVISORY" logo, are the unfamiliar words "Vato Rudo" ("Rude Boy") and "Spanish Lyrics."

With 10 of its 14 tracks written in Spanish, Vatos Rudos is a heads-up to those of you who've been scraping by on English alone. Consider it a reality check, a not-so-subtle message to the multiculturally challenged to get with the program. It's as much a raucous celebration of Los Skarnales' Hispanic heritage as it is an infectious open invitation for all of us to join the party. The band's hyperkinetic repackaging of punk's bad-ass adrenaline charge, combined with the giddy, offbeat syncopations and irreverent "rude boy" attitude affiliated with ska's Two Tone movement, is hardly earthshaking. But in the hands of Los Skarnales, the depleted ska-punk formula is nothing if not life-affirming. The group's swinging rhythm section and airtight brass drive the goose bumps home with a measured dose of soul. And just like that, a threadbare hybrid sounds fresh and exotic again, its street-level mystique replenished. So what if you can't understand most of the words?

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