Hepcat - Out Of Nowhere [re-issue] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Out Of Nowhere [re-issue] (2004)


It certainly says looks poorly on the 90s ska-punk movement that the entire revival only resulted in a small handful of bands that played the style consistently well and had a lifespan of more than two years. And while we can look back on the respectable back catalogues of The Pietasters, The Slackers or the Bosstones, not many others managed to stick with the style; Certainly not to such a degree that these bands could dispute the fact that they were, in reality, just punk bands who dabbled in ska occasionally.

The scene revolving around New York City's Moon Records was, at least in my eyes, the great hope for respectability and artistic growth in the genre. Moon Ska bands, including label founders the Toasters (who had been soldiering on since the 80s), seemed divorced of the ironic humour and limited vision that plagued the mostly Californian acts then exploding into the mainstream. Moon bands tended to exhibit a very distinctive style, a connection with everything that was hip about the sound and fashion of both British 2-tone and it's Jamaican roots. With look back at Moon in its heyday it's not too hard to see a time when ska was legitimately underground and cool. It's all the more tragic then that with the demise of that label most of its catalogue is near difficult to find.

Looking back at Moon's roster, Hepcat stands out as one of the shining jewels of the 90s ska revival. While Out Of Nowhere was their earliest effort and their style became far more refined and distinctive as time went on, it still stands out as an accomplished revival of the genre's roots. The liner notes in this expanded reissue offer some insight into the band's goals and vision: "to form a band that would play the old-time Jamaican Ska and Rocksteady that was usually only played in between sets at a typical Ska show." Their story goes on to say that while they tried to absorb as much as they could from their influences, it wasn't until a `92 tour with The Skatalites that they became "apprentices to the masters" and the Hepcat sound was born.

That may be an idealised look back at the band's history, but with a single spin of Out Of Nowhere it's evident that they had captured the spirit they were seeking. Vocals by frontmen Greg Lee and Alex Desert gave Hepcat unmatched character as the band jammed over music penned by Deston Berry and future-Slacker Dave Hillyard. This reissue captures the original's 13 tracks (choice Duke Ellington cover "Caravan" included) as well as the band's first single "Nigel" (b/w "Club Meditation"). As expected Out Of Nowhere has aged incredibly well definitely deserves a place in your collection.

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