The Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot (Cover Artwork)

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies: Zoot Suit RiotZoot Suit Riot (1997)
Space Age Bachelor Pad / Mojo

Reviewer Rating: 1.5

Contributed by: Skibz777Skibz777
(others by this writer | submit your own)

By 1997, the public had enough of alternative rock. Following the death of Kurt Cobain and the dissipation of grunge, American music struggled to get back on its feet, fighting off the Pearl Jams of the world through Britpop and pop-punk. It was't until ska-punk came along, however, that the mold wa.
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By 1997, the public had enough of alternative rock. Following the death of Kurt Cobain and the dissipation of grunge, American music struggled to get back on its feet, fighting off the Pearl Jams of the world through Britpop and pop-punk. It was't until ska-punk came along, however, that the mold was completely broken, re-introducing not only the long-forgotten joys of pure pop effervescence, but also the presence of brass in popular music. The public, having been almost blind from those years of flannel and self-deprecating lyrics, saw this brass-laden pop as the perfect opportunity for light-hearted escapism and gobbled it up, ultimately leading to what is now remembered as perhaps the most unexpected (and ridiculously superficial) movements of the 1990s: the swing revival.

It's easy to understand how neo-swing came to be, but it's impossible to understand why it turned out the way it did. Since the genre's origins in the early 1990s, the (rather minuscule) swing scene had prided itself in a heavy sense of wistful nostalgia, building its entire image through their retro style and perpetual cover songs. Only a freak occurrence could have launched it into the public eye, and, alas, that freak occurrence was the umpteenth revival of ska, and swing began to rise up the charts.

Thus, it could have been a step in the right direction when what proved to be the most popular band of the movement--the Cherry Poppin' Daddies--was not a "swing band" at all, but rather a lyric-driven rock/funk/swing/ska/*enter genre here* ensemble that stumbled into the scene entirely by accident. Sure enough, Zoot Suit Riot is a compilation album, made up of purely the straight swing tracks from the band's first three albums along with four new songs, hastily slapped together after concertgoers would ask which Daddies albums had the most swing songs on them.

But does a single-genre compilation album from a band whose entire aesthetic is rooted in multi-genre eclecticism and album-oriented lyricism work? Well, it does and it doesn't. Firstly, as an album, it fails.

Regardless of whether or not the public was aware that the Daddies weren't a swing-only band, that fact still greatly harms the overall flow of the album. As swing was not their primary focus, nor did the band strive for nostalgic authenticity, they never adhere to any single musical or lyrical approach: "Dr. Bones," for instance, nearly ventures into rapid-fast ska-punk territory, complete with modern, angsty, profanity-laced lyrics, while a few tracks down, "Shake Your Lovemaker" confidently showcases slow Dixieland jazz, its words bathed in retro imagery. When used on their respective albums, these tracks work and they work in relation with the rest of their album, but when they're all thrown together out of context, it makes for a totally disjointed and inconsistent experience (except for those who are just looking for brainless party music, which "Zoot Suit Riot" must have come across as considering its multi-platinum status and Warped Tour potential). Adding to the confusion are the four newly recorded tracks, which were very obviously written solely for inclusion on a "swing album." In complete contrast with the manic and somewhat abrasive neo-swing of the rest of the album, these tracks are slower, softer and jazzier, with singer Steve Perry's nasally yelp suddenly turning into a deep-voiced croon. Most of these songs seem like complete throwaways: The eponymous "Riot" couldn't possibly have been conceived as anything more than something catchy to open their live shows.

Some of the tracks do stand out by themselves, as they do on their own albums. "Drunk Daddy" is probably the best of them, a prime example of the Daddies' initial punk-rooted approach to swing, whose darkly comic lyrics regarding child abuse rank among the band's best. "Master and Slave" shows surprising lyrical complexity (definitely the most profound to come out of the swing revival) and "Here Comes the Snake," which is actually more of a jazz/rock hybrid, is, frankly, a really cool song, though its great lyrics regarding the inner struggle of good vs. evil will no doubt be obscured by people who prefer to read the inherent sexual innuendo in its title.

The Daddies manage to hit their highest point, however, with one of the new ones, "Brown Derby Jump." Musically, the song perfectly captures the jump blues arrangements of the 1940s, and on the surface, it's a hip, swingin' number, but lyrically, the Daddies take the opportunity to introduce the bluntly honest lyricism that was so repressed during those supposedly slap-happy times. While so many future neo-swing bands would live and die by the "swingin'" lifestyle sung about by the Rat Pack, the Daddies were the only ones who were quick to discredit it: In their cautionary tale about a swing-era character driven to near-destruction by the sways of drugs, alcohol and women, they're making clear that, nostalgia aside, times back then were just as bad as they are now. Society has progressed since then, and now that we are wiser and can express ourselves more freely, it effectively destroys this silly "wholesome" image we have of the past, showing that clinging nostalgically to that era is an exercise in futility (too bad Brian Setzer didn't get that message in time...).

Had the Daddies the time to craft and record an all-swing album, I have no doubt it would have been incredible--musically excellent and by far the most lyrically profound thing to surface from a mostly superficial movement. As it stands, however, Zoot Suit Riot presents a no-win situation for its listeners: Those looking to take a break from the bleak waters of Top 40 rock will find the novelty wearing off extremely quick; those who enjoy the album will have nowhere else to go as the rest of the Daddies discography is predominantly non-swing; and, worst of all, Daddies fans barely have any use for it (I didn't buy a copy until three years after I bought their first four, and it was solely to complete my collection).

It's obvious why Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Brian Setzer Orchestra continued their commercial success into the new century, as their approach was more single-minded ("capitalize on the public's love of all things retro") while the Cherry Poppin' Daddies faded into obscurity after returning to their multi-genre roots on their next album (who'dathunk choosing integrity over selling out would be career suicide?). The Daddies are a good band--some may even say a great band--but they just happened to be at the wrong place at the right time: They grabbed on to what was working in their favor, and it ultimately pigeon-holed them into one-hit-wonder obscurity. I expect one day--long after the band has folded--the public will rediscover the Daddies and come to truly, truly appreciate them...I just pray it's not for "Zoot Suit Riot" again.

In the bigger picture, though, Zoot Suit Riot was a major step forward.

It's easy to look back at the swing revival with derision (as I myself have done from time to time), but one has to wonder what it could have become with the right approach. Neo-swing had the potential to follow in the footsteps of ska and rockabilly (i.e. taking a music from the past and updating it to modern rock sensibilities), but it unwisely sidestepped its musical evolution, favoring gimmicky retro revisionism in the way of constant cover songs and a cartoonish "swing, daddy-o!" image, complete with cheesy band names, vintage fedoras and lyrics recalling the "good ol' times"...a textbook case of style over substance.

One has to admire the Cherry Poppin' Daddies--even after they almost sold their soul to Satan--when they became a part of the swing revival crowd, for attempting to rebel against everything that the movement was ridiculed for: their attempts at the aforementioned musical evolution via melding swing with ska and rock; their lyrical proficiency, tackling such topics as child abuse and alcoholism while other neo-swing bands were struggling to write about and drinking martinis and lindy hopping; and their truly modern attitude (they are, as far as I know, the only "swing band" to use four-letter words).

Zoot Suit Riot shouldn't be seen as the defining image of neo-swing. If anything, it should be seen as a musical blueprint...an idea of what swing needs to become in order to establish it as a respected genre. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies couldn't do it (nor should they be expected to; they have their own thing going on), but I believe one day a band will follow up on their groundwork and swing will no longer be the butt of a punk rocker's joke.


People who liked this also liked:
The Aquabats - The Fury Of...Operation Ivy - Operation IvyDevo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!Sick of It All - Death to TyrantsThe Sounds - Dying to Say This to YouThe Aquabats - Myths, Legends And Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Medium RareThe Cherry Poppin' Daddies - SusquehannaRancid - Let the Dominoes FallGreen Room Rockers / The Pinstripes - Midwest Soundclash [10 inch]

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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.
Rastid (June 21, 2010)

this album fuckin ruled. screw you all.

keithybobeefy (June 15, 2010)

As long as it distracts from THIS^ piece of shit, I'll do it! :D

I actually have a 8-Track player! It's horrible! :D"

I actually liked the review you wrote.

And we used a Tascam. We've since upgraded to a 24 track one, but there is just something really nice about recording on an 8-track.

Cyanotic (June 10, 2010)

Long review, but good.

Your posts down here were much more enjoyable though.

dlangl4 (June 10, 2010)

Skibz777 you're doing it all wrong. You're supposed to tell the haters they can blow you and then stand by your review. Also, no one will remember you even if you write good reviews, so don't worry about it.

mikexdude (June 9, 2010)

Dude, what the fuck is your problem...

It's a review. A well-written, albeit lengthy, review. Get over it. Not a big deal.

Skibz777 (June 9, 2010)

Some days it just seems like it would have paid to been born deaf and illiterate.

Skibz777 (June 9, 2010)


superskabro (June 9, 2010)

HOLY SHIIIIIIT! Best fucking punknews review thread EVER! We should have this Skibz777 fellow write more reviews.

Skibz777 is to Punknews as "Star Wars Kid' is to Youtube.

There. I said it.

Skibz777 (June 9, 2010)

The unfortunate thing is not only do I not recall anything that I wrote here (being both nearly a year old and marred by my hesitancy to now re-read ANY section of it), its ungodly length signifies that I spent a minimal amount of time composing it, omitting the usual day or two it takes me to condense my meandering rambles into a reasonable number of coherent paragraphs. The longer it is, the less time was spent keeping the fluff to a minimum, fixing the logical fallacies, inconsistencies, grammatical errors, contradictory statements, libel and homoerotic undertones. Plus, to have such lengthy prose accompanying THIS album above all others is somewhat disconcerting, considering my name is already attributed to the glut of CPD-related articles on this site (not my intention, believe me)....it'll be quite hard to get myself out of that jam when the band starts filing class-action lawsuits against me.

I have no issue taking compliments or having any creative product of my own design critiqued by the "public", but not when its something I bluffed my way through in mid-2009. I'd just rather be recognized for something a bit more dignified, like how many peas I can shove into my nostrils at once, for example (fourteen!).

inagreendase (June 9, 2010)

Skibz, drunk or not, you wrote a hell of a review. Deal with it. If you submitted reviews for more relevant bands that were never posted, it's probably because they weren't that articulate.

paulrulzdood (June 9, 2010)

never thought i'd read a review of this album in 2010...nor a review this thorough. killed some time at least, that was nice. I remember loving "zuit suit riot" but not really digging this "album" as a whole, nor was I aware it was a comp of their first 3 albums swing songs (at the time).


friokir (June 9, 2010)

now THAT's a fucking review! well done!

regreteverything (June 9, 2010)

It's like I time traveled back to when the only things I were capable of feeling were shame and my balls to see if the hair was coming in yet. I'm glad I typed in the AOL keyword "regret".

MN_DrNick (June 9, 2010)

Hey alright! The song my pep band rocked the shit out of is the title of this album!

pitchforkwriter (June 8, 2010)

Hey bro, Chapter One was pretty good, can't wait to read Chapter Two of your review.

Skibz777 (June 8, 2010)

As long as it distracts from THIS^ piece of shit, I'll do it! :D

I actually have a 8-Track player! It's horrible! :D

keithybobeefy (June 8, 2010)

Hey Skibz, wanna review the album I put out? It's self released and was recorded on an 8 track. Lo-Fi DIY fun for all. Songs about love, death, liquor, pills, insomnia and a song about wanting to live underwater.

sumwon (June 8, 2010)

I failed to make it through the 1500 word review, and I also failed to make it through his 200 word explanation for why the review was so long.

Skibz777 (June 8, 2010)

NO! NO I DO NOT! I have submitted several reviews over the years, but PunkNews have chosen to ONLY post the CPD ones. Apparently this website considers albums by the Meat Puppets and Team Dresch to be secondary to such an almighty presence as the Daddies.

Do moderators read the comments? Can someone take this off, please?

Cos (June 8, 2010)

So you exclusively review the Cherry Poppin' Daddies then?

mevsall (June 8, 2010)

Given the bad review of the album, I'm relieved that I instead bought Now: Volume 1 for the the song "Zoot Suit Riot" instead of the actual Cherry Poppin' Daddies album.

Spartakus (June 8, 2010)

I actually quite enjoyed the review! I enjoy the insight on the topic, since CPD is one of my favorite bands. While I don't fully agree with the score and some other points made in the review, I think it makes for a well-written review for a band that hardly gets the credit it deserves.

Skibz777 (June 8, 2010)

Well, not *wasted*, obviously, but I have the tendency to write extensively after an adequate number of adult beverages on whatever topics my singularly-focused mind chooses to dwell upon. Where else would I have the time? I normally don't submit anything for public viewi-...FUCK, I PROBABLY WASN'T EVEN WEARING PANTS WHEN I WROTE THIS!! It's barely noon, I've already been subjected to an inordinate amount of stress and this review is the ulcer-addled icing on the cake, in that "Michael-Landon's-urine-soaked-bedsheets-on-public-display" kind of way.

Is PunkNews SO desperate for material that they'll scrounge up a year-old review on a 13 year old album for any other reason than humiliating its author? What of all the other half-assed reviews I've submitted over the years?! Surely Team Dresch's 'Personal Best' would have been a better selection over 'Zoot Suit Fucking Riot'? Jesus Christ. Please, I can review ANY album! I'll do an Against Me! review if you want! Send me a CD! ANY CD!!!

Isn't there a way for administrators to delete this review at the reviewer's request!? I don't care if you have to delete my whole fucking account, just remove this shitty review of this shitty album off of the face of this website for good. >:(

Half_Idiot (June 8, 2010)

I have a really hard time believing you wrote that much, about this no less, while drunk. Just admit you put time and effort into it.

Skibz777 (June 8, 2010)

Why the FUCK is this on here? I wrote this, like, a year ago when I was drunk. I was incredibly relieved when it wasn't posted, but now I feel as though I've been confronted with some bastard child I had out of wedlock one regretful, drunken night ages ago. TAKE THIS OFF, or at least take my fucking name off of it.

Cos (June 8, 2010)

Good god this is laughably long. All for a compilation, no less.

I was just laughing with my roommate about how dirty some of these songs are. There's some decent stuff in here when you get past the obnoxious Zoot Suit Riot, such as "No Mercy For Swine".

eazyd2 (June 8, 2010)

lol @ superskabro.

i didnt read this shit, its too long.

this msuci was only popular because of the mask. jim carey was one funny motherfucked. and cameron diaz damn id love to his that shit.

superskabro (June 8, 2010)

dude, I can't believe that Aubin let you post your senior thesis paper on Cherry Poppin' Daddys as a review...

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