I have no idea how to start this review other than saying that this is easily the best ska-related album I've heard since Big D's How It Goes, it's also one of the most fun records I've had the pleasure of listening to this year.
The Diary of Hamilton Fish is the second full-length by Montreal's the Delegates, and their first effort for Bankshot! Records. I've only heard a track or two from their first disc, but if it's anything like this, i'm picking it up as soon as i get a chance.
If I had to describe the band's sound (something i'm not very good at), I would say it falls somewhere between Op Ivy, the Suicide Machines' earlier material and a somewhat less poppy/happy Less Than Jake. Throw in some reggae, some late `70s punk influence (it's kinda Clash-y here and there), maybe a dash of the RX Bandits recent strangeness, and some unique quirks and you have the Delegates. As far as musicianship is concerned, the band is pretty goddamn tight. Not that this stuff is incredibly intricate or anything, but they play it as well as anyone could ask. The horns are really what make this album; they don't play an overpowering role, nor are they usually high in the mix, but they're very important and add something extra to most of they songs; the album might be a bit flat without them. I love the vocals here as well, they go from a drawl to shouting with no problem and definitely have a somewhat snotty attitude that fits the music perfectly. Also, the backing vocals are always complimentary and put just where they're needed.
Songs range from fast punk anthems to slower reggae jams, and they work either way. Normally I'd like one style better than another, but these are all really good in their own way, and I find many of the tracks stuck in my head for hours after listening to them. Lyrically, this album is kind of all over the place, which is not at all a bad thing. Song topics range from non-conformity ("Pink Shoes in a Petri Dish") to girls ("Let Her Run," "Bon Voyage"... don't worry, they're not whiny songs), to personal issues ("Hello," Dark Sound"). The quasi-title track is actually about a fish named, obviously, Hamilton Fish. I'm sure it's some sort of metaphor; I don't really care, it's awesome regardless. There's even a cover song, and of all the random shit to possibly pick from, they choose a Roots song. It's actually really good, like all their original material.
There's something about the album art that I love, but I can't quite put my finger on it. That's kinda how I feel about this whole CD; it's great, but I'm just not sure why. Yea, it's got a pretty original sound, it's tight and it's very solidly written. More than anything though, it's just fun as hell. More fun than a weekend in Amsterdam with your ex-girlfriend's debit card and a bottle of Valtrex. More fun than making idiotic jokes at the end of poorly written reviews. I have an absolute blast when I listen to this, and if you don't mind horns, you will too; there's not one bad song on here (though track 8 is more or less an intro to track 9). It's not quite perfect, but damn it's close.
Personal Favorite Songs:
- "Pink Shoes in a Petri Dish"
- "In With the Nothing"
- "I Like It"
- "You Got Me"
You can hear the first four songs from the album on the band's MySpace page