Science Club - Ska (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Science Club

Ska (2015)


Ska is a four-song EP by Philadelphia trio Science Club. A quick sub-10 minute jolt to the system loaded with sing-along "hey heys" and "whoas," this EP should leave the listener pleasantly refreshed and coming back for more.

There is a fine line between clumsy and clever. And when the first track on any album starts with a muted, slightly off beat kick, snare, kick, snare coupled with a bit of growing feedback, and then joined by a muted guitar rhythm, you just know that the volume is going to go up several hundred notches and the band is going to rip into the song. Executed poorly, it just comes across as bad. Done right, and it can be something beautiful to behold.

Luckily for SC, the first track, “The Lord Will Have His Terrible Vengeance” falls into the latter category. When this song kicks in, you feel it in your gut. The rhythm is exciting and energetic even if there’s nothing terribly unique about it, but the lyrics and Nate’s vocals are what put this over the top. The first verses, "Save the bathwater/ Save the baby/ I’ll throw away the things that sustain me" Ggve you an idea of the clever wordplay you’ll find on this album in spades. But then we get back into clumsy or clever territory. The transition into the chorus is so sudden and the music shift so great that it throws the listener out of the song for a second or two. I have an inkling that this is intentional on SC’s part, but I would’ve preferred a smoother transition. Still, "hey heys" abound and you catch yourself grinning every time you follow along the lyrics in a set of verses.

Next we move into “We Live Here Now”, a solid song which, musically, won’t be blowing anyone away. This is the first of two songs on the album which rely more on clever lyrics and the vocals to pull the listener in. Starting with a rabble-rousing set of ‘hey heys’ brings a bit more life to this song. But coming so soon off of the "hey heys" of the previous track, I’m left wondering if they are just reusing the same audio again. I'm kidding(?). They do sound different, but close enough that you almost feel this song is part of the first, and missing an identity of its own at the start.

"Punk Rock is None of My Business" is where it’s at. By far the strongest track of the four, this one is likely the most musically unique and creative, with lyrics that you can sing along to and stick in your head well afterward. Beginning with a bumping bass line and rumbling drums, the Nate’s sotto voce lyrics build anticipation

"There are no ghosts here/ there are just bones here/ bodies a’restin’/well-wishers wishin’ the best/ for the friends that they miss/cuz’ everyone’s dead." And then the guitar comes up, the band tears in, and Nate’s voice transforms in a grumbly near-yell that fully expresses frustration and pain. Somehow, even though you know this is not the happiest of songs, the cheerful ‘whoa-ohs’ that come in only seem to bolster its power. Coming around full, the song ends the same as it started and you feel that SC has taken you on a trip  from stop to full speed and back to stop again in the best way possible.

Finally we round out the album with a rolling, folksy ballad(?), "The Bad Friend Shuffle". This song evokes an aversion to being social, avoiding your friends and, yet, being a bit bitter when they stop trying to get in touch. This is the calmest on the album, with Nate only raising his voice on the last few runs of the chorus. Like the second track, a solid if not titillating song.

Overall, this is a fun album. At no point is it dull, with two great songs interspersed with two good songs. Editorially, I would’ve preferred that the track listing would have "The Bad Friend Shuffle" second, followed by "We Live Here Now" and then "Punk Rock is None of My Business". This would break up the "hey heys" currently found on the "The Lord…" and "We Live…", and because "Punk Rock…" is simply too damn good of a song not to end with.

Having now listened to their entire available catalog, Ska shows a band which is finding its voice, and whose song-writing and composition is improving with each successive release. Well-produced, but not overly, this would make a great addition to the library who likes fun, catchy songs. The clever and well-played lyrics are a bonus that brings this EP into 4-star territory.