IllScarlett - 1Up! | ThePunkSite.com
|Label:Sony Music Entertainment Canada
||Reviewer: Cole Faulkner|
My love-hate relationship with Sublime-esque reggae punkers illScarlett is no secret. I jumped on the bandwagon when 2006’s EPdemic first exploded and the formerly unknown Mississauga, Ontario group soon after became a radio staple after signing with Sony’s Canadian division. Like a stubborn fan I view these days as illScarlett’s “golden age.” A more comprehensive explanation can be found in my review of 2007’s All Day With It, but the long and short of it is that after signing with Sony and embracing the mainstream, the band just sort of started sounding like every other mainstream pop-punk act out there.
But like any good fan I still hold out hope for each new release and try overcoming my obvious bias. When their latest album, 2009’s 1Up!, was announced, and the lead single “Take It For Granted” was released, I took the bait, and indulged. I didn’t mind what I heard, but aside from the bouncy, toe-tapping keyboard during the verse, the same high-energy rock overtones continued smothering the sound I had originally embraced them for. But I wasn’t about to give up, so like any good fan I got a hold of the full length and took it for a spin. And I’m really quite glad I did.
1Up! finds the band relaxing substantially, toning down the obnoxious mainstream clichés, and returning to their roots of sunny day backyard BBQ reggae. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t EPdemic two – 1Up! is still overproduced and mainstream oriented – but 1Up! does signify a band coming to grips with finding a sustainable sound that can carry it forward, and satisfy its members for the years to come – even after major label endorsement inevitably ends.
The easiest tracks to get into feel very laid back; the strongest tracks include “Milkshakes & Razor Blades,” “Freezing,” “Too Sure,” and “Sorry.” These tracks are an unquestionable return to form; the slowly played ska upstroke, Caribbean-styled steel drums, and calming organ hum effortlessly find their place back in illScarlett’s repertoire. These are the type of tracks that will inevitably find their way onto playlists for years to come.
But of course a modern illScarlett release wouldn’t be complete without a few misses as well. Thankfully they’re mostly clumped together at the beginning of the album, so after about the forth or fifth track it’s smooth sailing. The worst offender includes “Funky Rep.” which despite starting off promising degrades into lead vocalist Alex Norman unbearably screaming into the mic. The same can be said about the title track, which despite having a fairly witty message about the industry, should generally be avoided. Norman has a great voice, so why he feels the need to butcher it is beyond me.
All in all, I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed 1Up! While I used to point to EPdemic as a benchmark for years to come, 1Up! has helped me look forward in illScarlett’s career, rather than back, for enjoyment. I still believe the best is yet to come though, but I think we’ll have to wait until the band parts ways with Sony, and eventually gets picked up by a label like SideOneDummy for illScarlett to completely mellow out again.