Razbari Sumthing, a seven-piece ska band hailing from East Syracuse, New York, isn't your usual ska band. Their new album, The Great Distraction proves why they're standouts in one of the up-and-coming ska scenes in America. Upstate New York has given birth to No Name Charlies, the Naked Citizens, Endive, Public Access, and many more. These bands and several others were featured last year on the all-day festival Big Orange Bonanza, organized by Naked Citizens. The event is scheduled for June 7th this year. Even in this blossoming upstate scene, Razbari proves they are one of the elite with this album.
The album's sound mostly revolves around dark guitar riffs and bass-lines with horns and choruses that brighten the tracks. The dominant themes on the album concern the struggles of playing ska and singer Mike Larkin's life. The album starts off with "Dungeons and Dragons," a solid opener. The second track, "Untitled," informs us of the strength of the ska scene, despite a lack of respect from those outside the scene. Although the song is slower than I usually like, it is very impressive and shows how dynamic a two-trumpet combo can be. "Dickfor" is my favorite song on the album; it is a very good third-wave song with a very catchy chorus. Listening to the song, you will be surprised by the band's originality and their lack of national attention. The following song, "Crystal Green and Gold," keeps the momentum going with tremendously captivating horn lines. The song is not about playing ska, but it talks about how people are usually fake. It reminds me of one of my favorite bands, World Inferno Friendship Society.
The Great Distraction takes a turn with the acoustic track "Okay" in which Larkin looks back at his high school years as he struggles with college life. The song is meaningful, holds your attention, and somehow fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. The next track, "P.S. -- To Whom It May Concern," leads the album into yet another direction. This track, which takes the form of a letter, reminds me of Ray Davies (Kinks) and his use of a horn section, particularly on the recent "Yours Truly Confused, N10," off his recent EP, Thanksgiving. Both songs are clever with the energy springing from the horns.
The second half of The Great Distraction is just as impressive as the first. Starting off with "Into the Grey," the album takes another crazy turn. This song begins dark and shady, but progresses with flawless horn lines and becomes another noteworthy song on this album, giving off the vibe of a Flaming Tsunamis' song, which is a good thing. "Breathe" lightens things up. The horn lines here are very similar to those of Big D and the Kids Table, the theme being lost in darkness and trying to solve problems. The next track, "Valley of Kings," is the only instrumental track and demonstrates Razbari's versatility as musicians.
"Mountains of Avalon" keeps this adventure rolling along. The horns are not used throughout the song, but when they do enter they play a major role. The song is about how the singer's parents aren't impressed with their children's best efforts and the mountain is a metaphor for the child's self-esteem. "Freak Out" starts off acoustic, but then transforms into an electric ska song. The song is about how Larkin and his girlfriend's relationship is in crisis. His girlfriend is concerned about their future and Larkin is not sure there will be a future: "She's freaked out about the future and what it can hold for her and me, will we last until tomorrow? … Don't plan for tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come. Worrying about it just seems dumb." Listening to this song made me think of the Specs, formally known as the Superspecs.
The title track, "The Great Distraction," is my least favorite. However, the final track, "End of Time," is a fitting conclusion to the album. It features complex horn lines and sums up what the album is all about: great horn lines, clever lyrics, and solid all-around musicianship.
The Great Distraction is already one of my favorite local albums of all-time, in close competition with the Arrogant Sons of Bitches' Discography, High School Football Heroes' Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and Handgrenades, the Superspecs' Project H.A.N.D.S.O.F.F., and No Name Charlies' 3 Blocks Down. But Razbari Sumthing is different. They combine acoustic tracks, third-wave ska, skacore, and alternative rock, and raise comparisons all the way from Hall-of-Fame frontman Ray Davies to cult-like World Inferno Friendship Society to national third-wave band Big D and the Kids Table. I haven't had a chance to see Razbari Sumthing perform yet, but I hear that they are equally great live. I recommend seeing them on their Spring/Summer tour when they hit your town!