Finally! After four years of twiddling their collective thumbs, Slow Gherkin puts out a new record. All I can say is "thank you." Whereas most acts that are even remotely ska-related are breaking up, changing their sound, or just plain sucking, Slow Gherkin has weathered the storm. Their new album shows that they haven't escaped without battle scars, though.
Just looking at the inside photo of the band, you can see how old these guys feel. This sextet of Californians just look tired of the ska scene that some never even considered them a part of, due to their more rock-and-soul/Elvis Costello-esque feel on a lot of their songs [past and present]. But even though the band looks exhausted, they still have an undeniable spirit for their music which comes across in the 11 tracks contained within "Run Screaming."
The band's energy level is in the red on tracks like opener "He's Gotta Go" [a plead with a girl to leave her boyfriend] and the peak of the album, "Sally Boulevard" - this song is catchy as all hell, and has the best, most *real* gang vocals I've heard in some time [seriously, I can't stop yelling out "She Lives On! She Lives On!" whenever I listen to this song]. "Pretty [In A Pretty Sort Of Way]" and album closer "In Love With Moviestars" are both spectacular slower numbers, with the former making good use of the band's talented horn section, and the latter copping a 60s-esque doo-wop feel and a simplistic-yet-catchy guitar solo.
The band gets more intense with the one-two punch of "Letterhead" and "Snakes." "Letterhead" is a slow waltz about a long lost love, and as the song fades out, it segues into "Snakes," by far the darkest song this band has ever done. The music is just downright sinister for the first minute and a half until the horns kick in. Lyrically, lines like "Thousands of snakes / crawl up my legs / and every night I hear a knock upon my door / As I lie and itch, I know that it's / my sins they're coming for" just creep me out the way James sings it. My best guess is this song is about drug use/abuse, but I can't be 100% positive. The band just amazes me with their lyrical intensity, and how they can go from a song like that to something upbeat and happy.
The recording itself sounds like it was thrown together, but not in a bad way - it just sounds like the band sat down, knocked a bunch of tunes out, and knocked a few beers back while doing it. The album sounds sincere and energetic, and not one song slows the album's pace down [although if I was in a meaner mood, I'd say a few might qualify as "filler"]. Slow Gherkin is back after a four year absence from a volatile scene, and I'm welcoming them back with open arms. You all should, too.