Local Wire

The Slackers

Search Google with the phrase "ska sucks" and you'll encounter various vitriolic ventings about how the musical style blows. It's not a surprise, really, as ska has long been considered the whipping boy among musical misanthropes, who unilaterally deride its seemingly repetitive nature and upbeat spirit, or how bands like Reel Big Fish or Goldfinger bastardized the Jamaican-born sound by combining it with pulsating punk rock hooks and tempo. Oddly enough, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find any criticisms of The Slackers, as the NYC-based sextet has earned a bit of respect among the naysayers. Eschewing the "ska punk" aesthetic, band members have spent the past 15 years sticking closer to the genre's dancehall roots (à la The Allstonians or Let's Go Bowling) by incorporating more soulful sounds like jazz, reggae, and dub into their musical mixture. There's also a frenetic energy infusing their songs, which radiates through the golden tones of the blaring horn section, throbbing keyboards, and emotive lyrics from lead singer Vic Ruggiero that might just turn the hard hearts of all the non-skanking cynics out there.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.