Up until their untimely demise in late 2004, the Operators 780 were one of the prairie's best-kept secrets and were poised to break out with their smooth brand of punky reggae on the tip of everyoneís tongue. The band managed to build up quite a reputation when word of mouth quickly got around after 2003ís bass heavy, ultra smooth EP Power Version hit the scene via New York punk label Longshot Music. The following summer, the Operators 780 released their self-titled debut to much anticipation on the same label and has been hailed around these parts as one of the best and freshest albums of 2004.
Itís blatantly apparent upon the first spin of this disc that the Operators 780 ("780" is the telephone area code for Edmonton, Alberta, where they are from) that their sound is a far cry from the southern California ska-punk pioneered by bands like Sublime and Operation Ivy. The music here is a lot more in line with classic reggae, dub and dance hall. A true love for this kind of music really shines through with this quintetís heavy rhythmic grooves, but the band's influences donít end there. The Operators have managed to blend both the smooth reggae sounds with the angst and intensity of punk rock perfectly without sounding forced or unnatural. Gang vocals slide along with the beats while Eric Buddís raw bark grabs your attention, but doesnít alienate the listener from the mellower experiences.
But the Operators arenít all about providing a relaxed atmosphere for you to put on in the background and bob your head to. They know how to get you off your ass and dancing. At the core of all their songs is a tight, silky rhythm section, but also intricately placed guitar punches, the driving hum of a crooning Hammond organ and a lone saxophone that sings above it all, forcing you to take notice, get up and cut a rug.
There isnít a single dud on this album. Every song is masterfully crafted and careful not to repeat itself. Some of the songs are straightforward and driving, others have the bass guitar in the forefront rumbling everything you own, and others have a unique production reminiscent of the great Lee Perry. But even with all the differences, in no way are the Operators taking you on a schizophrenic tour through their influences, as every song manages to keep that sexy Operators feel.
It is a real shame that the Operators 780 quietly threw in the towel so early into the game. So quietly in fact that many of the scenesters in their hometown didnít even know of the breakup until months later when rumors started popping up on internet message boards for other cities. In such a short amount of time the Operators managed to gain enough enthusiastic notoriety that once their catalogue goes out of print I can imagine it will be come a hot item for collectors as their popularity will continue to grow from word of mouth. Get a copy for yourself know while you still can. I promise that you and everyone you share it with will love the shit out of it.
Hold My Life Too