Southern California Street Music
Voodoo Glow Skulls were one of those bands that I always heard about, was always interested in, and yet never actually checked out their stuff. Other than a few compilations here and there, the actual music of the band failed to hit my ears at all. I can’t really say why, they were just never a band that I went out of my way to find. Either way, I knew they were a ska band that has been around for well over a decade; and I love ska, so when I saw the cover of Southern California Street Music staring back at me from a recently opened envelope I was stoked.
I excitedly ripped off the plastic wrapper and threw the record into my CD player, expecting to hear a knee pumping ska record… boy was I disappointed.
It’s not that it wasn’t a knee pumping ska record; it’s just that I couldn’t stand the vocals. Frank Casillas’ pipes are strong and normally a type of vocals that I would like. However, for me, the vocals didn’t fit the ska beat and I couldn’t help but think that Casillas’ vocals would be better in a skate-punk band ala Pennywise – particularly since I heard a heavy Jim Lindberg resemblance in them. This created a massive obstacle for me to overcome. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get into the record. I sat through the record and then tossed it away, rather disappointed with what I was expecting to be a great ska release.
Then some reviews starting popping up about the record. Reviews which were praising the musical merits of the release and I decided to brave the bullet and listen to the CD again. This time I went in with a new frame of mind as I was set to ignore the vocals and instead focus in on the music behind them to see if I could find some semblance of happiness within the release. So I looked past the vocals on my second listen, listening to the music behind it and I was impressed. The music was gritty and fast, a great ska punk sound that got your blood flowing. The horns blared through my headphones and the upstrokes got my feet taping on the bus. With more distortion than most ska, the beat was hyperactive and not one song lacked any spunk. So as Southern California Street Music made its way through its twelve tracks I starting thinking that these guys would be a lot of fun to hear live because there I could look past the vocals and just dance with the beat.
Then the strangest thing happened. As the record progressed and I was focusing intensely on the music, I slowly let the vocals slip in past my blockage; and well, I didn’t mind them as much. While they still weren’t what I expected, I started to like them. The rough vocals fit with the distorted ska punk beats. The harsh delivery worked well with the serious subject matter and it was the vocals that really made the songs memorable on tracks like Morning Air Raid Sirens, Home Is Where The Heart(ache) Is and When The World Stops Turning. So on my third listen I put away all my notions and listened to the songs again, vocals and music combined and I couldn’t help but feel that it had grown on me.
The vocals, while not the regular ska vocals, fit well. The music is energetic and upbeat; and while I can’t accurately compare it to any previous releases, Street Music has caught my attention despite a sloppy start and I’m sure I’ll play the record again in the future.
So my recommendation is this: if you like ska, check it out; but don’t dismiss it after the first listen because it will grow on you and then it’ll be worth it.