The Slackers coverThe Slackers
[Hellcat Records, 2003]

Bless you, Slackers. Bless you for “Old Dog”. Bless you for giving us a unique and catchy reggae song that’s about neither ganja nor repatriation nor war nor equal rights nor Jah nor Babylon nor sex nor self, but is about compassion and joy and loss and humor and relationships and individual worth and respect for life. Thank you for that marvel, and for plunking it onto an album that has such a wealth of additional treasures.

Granted, not all the content is as unusual as that one—or as groovy as “I’ll Stay Away”, with its vocal echoes of the 60’s British Invasion. Close My Eyes starts with “Shankbon”, a scorching instrumental ska, as if the band wants to establish credibility among those who admire The Skatalites. It should work. The song “Real War” is about you-know-what, but it takes a somewhat atypical slant: “War is all around us, fighting everywhere, (but it’s) time to fight the real war against hunger and poverty; time to fight the real war for racial equality”. Proclamations of romantic love and longing crop up here and there over both ska and reggae beats. The dubbish instrumental effort at the end works pretty well too.

The album, then, is a mix of the typical and the unusual, all of it performed with The Slackers’ usual creativity, commitment and good taste. Oh-oh. As I write that, I realize that it sounds bland—must have been the “good taste” bit. What I meant was “their perceptive ability to write and perform only material that communicates”, or something like that. I don’t actually know what makes their music so enjoyable for me, but I am utterly convinced that you can, and would, enjoy it just as much. Start with “Old Dog” and learn and live.