How do you write about an album where all the songs sound like a fan-favourite lo-fi closer of around a bazillion other albums?
First off, I guess, we’ll speak about the author of said album: Vic Ruggiero, head of well-loved NYC ska outfit, the Slackers. They have put out 17 albums in a 12-year recording history, and that’s not to mention Ruggiero’s own five solo albums and probably countless other records he and the others have featured on. You’d think he would be wearing his welcome thin by now…
Well, you’d be wrong. The relentlessly touring and recording Slackers pull a dedicated crowd, and with them, Ruggiero will always have an audience. His stunningly charming and laid-back voice and songs -- making girls want to be him and men want to go to bed with him (it is that way around, isn’t it?!) -- infects everything he does, and there’s no exception here.
This isn’t a Slackers-album-without-the-Slackers. The music isn’t really ska -- more ska-tinged. Vic Ruggiero does almost everything on the album, apart from some drums and female vocals (from the rather alluring-sounding Lisa Muller [of Germany’s Black Cat Zoot]) and the horns of the fantastic-sounding Romanian Fanfara Kalashnikov.
“A Lovely Beginning” is a duet between Ruggiero and Muller, and features Hawaiian guitar sounds to a Latin-American-meets-ska backing, whilst “Always Something in My Blindspot” and “Is It You” are country soaked, yet they still maintain that Ruggiero ska swing.
“Lonely Nights Reprise” and “Is It You” take the spotlight out of all 14 numbers, the latter being so swinging it sounds like it should’ve been part of the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong duets. The former os made by Fanfare Kalashnikov’s horns dominating proceedings.
There’s a lack of consistency and a lack of self-editing in this otherwise fine addition to his massive body of work. At points, it can feel if Ruggiero is trying to escape his ska roots -- trying to diversify, trying to be anything than what he simply is: a fantastic ska songwriter. Not all the tracks work, but you can’t hold that against him; he tries things, he challenges himself, and he doesn’t rest on his laurels. When it does work, it’s pretty blissful.