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The Slackers - Peculiar (Cover Artwork)

The Slackers

The Slackers: PeculiarPeculiar (2006)
Hellcat Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: adamAdam
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The Slackers take a few risks with Peculiar. Not in terms of the style mind you, as the band continues to be pretty much peerless in their approach to modern ska music, but in what they chose to include on this record. Most glaring is the fact that the lyrical content of 2004's International War Cri.
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The Slackers take a few risks with Peculiar. Not in terms of the style mind you, as the band continues to be pretty much peerless in their approach to modern ska music, but in what they chose to include on this record. Most glaring is the fact that the lyrical content of 2004's International War Criminal EP appears here in its entirety. On paper, the fact that essentially an entire album side has been spoilt by two years of prior exposure is quite a letdown. Granted, that EP had a fairly low print run and essentially no proper distribution, but Slackers fans have a knack for gobbling up every side project, limited release and foreign record the band puts out. For those of us who make up the core constituency of Slack, seeing those songs listed again is somewhat disheartening.

However, this is a band with a knack for making things work where others have failed, and after a few spins of Peculiar I not only don't mind the inclusion of the War Criminal tracks, I welcome them. The band took the smartest path and re-recorded most of the material. Only while a lesser band would simply have simply tightened up the performances, the Slackers took a page from their jazz forbearers and reinterpreted their own songs. Suddenly War Criminal isn't a useless double, it's an alternate version. It's the preimage. The embryo.

What gives Peculiar such a wonderful sense of life is the fact that it was recorded live in Ernesto's, a venue in the Netherlandic town of Sittard. As anyone who's heard the band's live albums can attest, there's something about the Dutch club that brings out their best. In particular, this record follows up the brilliant live recording Upsetting Ernesto's, a concert with Upsetter Glen Adams and lovers rock chanteuse Susan Cadogan that's among the band's greatest output. Compared to it their recent studio work, 2003's Close My Eyes in particular, seems dreadfully muddled. While Peculiar isn't a live album, the band turned this club into their studio and finally manage to strike a balance between their live show and their studio work.

Top that off with a change in the ranks. This the is the band's first proper full-length with guitarist "Agent" Jay Nugent and drummer Ara Babajian, even though the two have now spent years as part of the group. Furthermore, Marc Lynn, now listed as an "additional player" rather than a full-time member, has significantly scaled back his contributions. While Q-Maxx can be heard among the backing vocals, the toasting of songs like "Real War" and the mad preacher of the "Church of Slack" seem to be relics of the past.

Peculiar revisits much of the thematic ground covered on Close My Eyes to greater effect. Frontman Vic Ruggiero again seems to be eulogizing a parent, and while "86 the Mayo" is not quite as direct as "Mommy" it's such a better realized song. There's a that sense of focus that keeps the material here from seeming redundant. The political slant that seemed born of frustration on Close My Eyes is rather empowering this round. The reworking of "Propaganda" is brilliant, from the perfect reggae response singing to the tastefully applied vocal effects. Glen Pine's taken over some of the vocal duties in "Crazy" while Dave Hillyard injects a wonderful sax solo to the song. "International War Criminal" itself is slowed from the EP version, and given room to breathe the lyrics seem to hit their political targets with greater force.

Peculiar also finds individual band members stretching their legs a bit more. "Mountainside" showed us years ago that trombonist Glen Adam's has a killer set of pipes, but the soulful "What Went Wrong" is unlike anything he's done before. Ruggiero similarly includes a song that feels like a solo effort in the form of the touching "I'd Rather Die Happy." The Motown-inspired pop song "Set the Girl Free" finds the band as a whole exploring new territory. Fans of the band's debut should be very happy with "Sauron," as it's reminiscent of the instrumentals from that era.

What can you say about "I Shall Be Released?" It sounded fantastic on Music from Big Pink. It sounds fantastic on any of Dylan's records. It sounds fantastic here. Great songs just tend to do that.

More focused than Wasted Days and simply outclassing everything that Close My Eyes attempted, Peculiar ranks up with Redlight and The Question as one of the Slackers' best recordings. That it even approaches their live material in quality is a feat in itself.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
dutchmaster (September 12, 2007)

great band, great album. gets my total respect!

Anonymous (March 4, 2006)

This MAY be my new favorite Slackers record to date.

"Crazy", "Set The Girl Free", "What Went Wrong" are my favorite tracks.

It's so different from the past albums, yet it's still definately The Slackers. I love how this band has evolved and matured so much over the years, yet still retain that special style that they have worked so hard to create.

Anonymous (March 4, 2006)

it's glen pine with the pipes on 'what went wrong' .. not glen adams ;)

Anonymous (March 4, 2006)

it's glen pine with the pipes on 'what went wrong' .. not glen adams ;)

Anonymous (March 2, 2006)

okay we all agree that close my eyes was better..... but it was also a hard act to follow....

i love this one...
it makes me quiver.

Anonymous (March 2, 2006)

this record is great
and try the skinhead jamboree and ska wars sampler

johnnydanger (March 1, 2006)

oh, so they do still make ska

Anonymous (February 28, 2006)

this album is great. I was originally disappointed with the inclusion of songs from their later EPs, but they fit in fine. I'm listening to Set the Girl free now. One of the best Slackers songs ever. 86 the Mayo, too. Probably my favorite song on the album (Get Vic's solo album too) and also What Went Wrong.

Besides the Maytals and Dekker, get some Delroy wilson, Pioneers, Jimmy Cliff, Ethiopians, Lee Perry, Heptones

Cos (February 27, 2006)

I miss the Adjusters.

Cos (February 27, 2006)

Oh man, Will, I'm sorry you don't like "Til Shiloh". Its such an amazing, groundbreaking record. NOBODY was doing anything like that when it came out. Buju grew up and found out that there was more to life than partying and slandering homosexuals and made an incredible mix of dancehall, roots reggae and a little bit of oldies and ska. I was amazed when I first heard it. I still am, really. His baritone is so sweet. If you listen to ONE dancehall record (and this isn't even pure dancehall) listen to "Til Shiloh".

--Cos

perilafterperil (February 26, 2006)

"for peculiar the soul songs are great.
would give the pietasters/adjusters a run for their money"

agreed. although the pietasters have been playing their new stuff lately around here in dc and it's sooooo good/soulful. the pietasters are definitely aging very well from their more intense 'todd eckhardt/tom goodin drinking anthem' days.

Anonymous (February 26, 2006)

Ew... "Til Shiloh" sucks so bad. Dancehall sucks!

And Tosh is boss... LEGALIZE IT!

-Will

Cos (February 26, 2006)

I haven't heard the Trojan boxed sets, but from the packaging they look a little thrown-together. I have the "Let's Do They Rocksteady" double disc set they put out in '02 and its awesome. Around the same time they put out lots sets in that series, from Ska to Lovers Rock to early Reggae. They all look good.

One man I haven't heard mentioned is Peter Tosh. I know he was part of the Wailers but is solo albums are excellent. Find anything with "Stepping Razor" on it and you'll be happy. And Buju Banton's "Til Shiloh" (and ONLY this album) if you can stomach a little dancehall with your reggae.

--Cos

Anonymous (February 26, 2006)

nah the slackers always try to do something new with each record while sticking to what they are good at.

for peculiar the soul songs are great.
would give the pietasters/adjusters a run for their money

Anonymous (February 26, 2006)

I love this record. Buy it. Summer playlist for sure. The re-recording are amazing.

-Not-To-Regret

Anonymous (February 25, 2006)

Trojan box sets are so dull. Maybe 4-5 songs on each that aren't just the epitome of boredom.

Anonymous (February 25, 2006)

i love the slackers. no doubt, ive seen them a million times..but its ska and i cant help but think a lot of these songs are going to sound like the same old same old. a brotha can only handle so much!

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

augustus pablo.
johnny osbourne.

check out the easy star all stars' dub side of the moon.

lushj (February 24, 2006)

1. Can't wait to hear this. What a great band!

2. I've been digging into these 2 Trojan box sets: Trojan Ska Box Set and Trojan Rocksteady Box Set. The first is mustard colored, the second is pine green, about 50 songs total over 3 cds from the 60s and early 70s. Almost all of the artists mentioned below appear at least once. You can see a review of the ska one here:

http://www.yaleherald.com/archive/xxviii/1999.09.10/ae/p 13trojanska.html

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

Oh yeah, I forgot about Scientist. One of his albums was used as the reggae station on Grand Theft Auto 3, but only short clips of his songs.

-Will

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

Eh, might wanna make that Perry's Upsetters era. Max Romeo's "War Inna Babylon" (produced by Perry) is without a doubt one of the greatest albums of all time- regardless of genre. It happens to be awesome dub. Anything by King Tubby, too.

If you like dancehall, check out I Roy. Guy's got it goin' on.

-Will

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

if you're looking for quality reggae, i'd suggest getting 'the reggae box' from island records. 4 cds', 80 some tracks. each disc spans a decade of reggae (ie disc one is the 60's, disc two is the 70's). its fucking great. should run you about 60-70 bucks but worth the investment. comes w/a sweet history of reggae book and song notes.

here it is. its gone down in price since i got it a few years ago. definatly worth 50 bucks. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005RIN8/002-0211538-7307204?v =glance&n=5174

paul

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

"This one's going on the "to buy" list.
I've been getting into a lot of Jamaican music lately, probably because it's fucking cold outside and the music makes me think of warm places - In addition to Desmond Dekker and Toots and the Maytals (both of whom who I enjoy very much), are there any other ska/reggae CDs I shouldn't pass up?"

You can't go wrong with Lee "Scratch" Perry or the Skattalites. Perfection knows no bounds for them.

joeg (February 24, 2006)

"I've been getting into a lot of Jamaican music lately, probably because it's fucking cold outside and the music makes me think of warm places - In addition to Desmond Dekker and Toots and the Maytals (both of whom who I enjoy very much), are there any other ska/reggae CDs I shouldn't pass up?"

hey nick, i think you'll dig alton ellis, phyllis dillon, the heptones and ken boothe. awesome ska/rocksteady.

ejaculine (February 24, 2006)

This one's going on the "to buy" list.
I've been getting into a lot of Jamaican music lately, probably because it's fucking cold outside and the music makes me think of warm places - In addition to Desmond Dekker and Toots and the Maytals (both of whom who I enjoy very much), are there any other ska/reggae CDs I shouldn't pass up?

Besides Bob Marley. I have his stuff too.

Well you could check out Ethiopians and Melodians. Just awesome rocksteady bands. Also The Harder They Come soundtrack is a must have.

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

I dunno, a bit one dimensional. Alright, and a few damn catchy numbers, but not too much going on.

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

The Band > Dylan

Nick_V (February 24, 2006)

This one's going on the "to buy" list.

I've been getting into a lot of Jamaican music lately, probably because it's fucking cold outside and the music makes me think of warm places - In addition to Desmond Dekker and Toots and the Maytals (both of whom who I enjoy very much), are there any other ska/reggae CDs I shouldn't pass up?

Besides Bob Marley. I have his stuff too.

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

you didn't mention django mixed this.....

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

me gusta

givemeamuseumandillfillit (February 24, 2006)

The Slackers is one of those few band you can listen to with your mother, father and grandma to and all enjoy it equally.

The songwriting is just through the roof on this one.

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

to the first post, agreed " what went wrong" is easily one of their best, ridiculous hooks abound on this cd, these guys just keep getting better- oldpunker-

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

Not a bad song in sight here, great stuff.

Joe

ElVaquero (February 24, 2006)

Damn fuckin good record this is. My mum's gonna love it.

almostpunkenough (February 24, 2006)

not quite as good as "Close My Eyes", but damn fine anyway.

xote (February 24, 2006)

This band kicks ass

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

they also put lots of these songs on the pulley split. what a strange release that was

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

score is for use of the word "chanteuse"

ramo (February 24, 2006)

I loved Close My Eyes.

Can't wait to see this in the record bin next time I go music shopping.

Ramo

psychoos231 (February 24, 2006)

Great review Adam, i was a little disappointed with the re-recorded "International War Criminal" i prefer the ep version.

joeg (February 24, 2006)

you can count on the slackers to put out another solid record. well done guys.

branden (February 24, 2006)

vic sounds so good on this record. they were really on top of their game

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

this cd will not leave my cd player. somehow with every album this bands surprises me. the fact that they tracked most of the instruments live shows. it sounds amazing. 'what went wrong' and 'set the girl free' are my favorite songs off the album. i was a little upset with the inclusion of 'international war criminal' but i to have gotten used to it and love this album.

Godfather (February 24, 2006)

i need to pick this up sometime this week

TheNightProwler (February 24, 2006)

I got this album used like 2 and a half weeks early...

I like it, I haven't listened to it enough times yet but I like it.

aubin (February 24, 2006)

Another great album from one of the best songwriters in any genre.

lifeoftheparty (February 24, 2006)

great band.

Anonymous (February 24, 2006)

'what went wrong' is one of the best slacker songs ever in my opinion.

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