Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine - Mickey

Quick. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about a third wave ska-punk band with horns? Reel Big Fish? Less Than Jake? How much you hate people that say they love the "ska version" of Come On Eileen? If you do, that's understandable, but you'd be far off if you think that Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine falls into the same tropes as ska-punk bands from the late 1990s. Rather, they take the sounds of yesterday and put them through a modern punk rock filter to create something new. With a couple of demos and EPs underneath their belt the Long Island-based band released their debut full length, Mickey, last November.

Equipped with a maturity that most ska bands don't achieve until at least album three or four, Eli Whitney takes as much influence from the likes of Streetlight Manifesto as they do from dual vocal-based punk rock bands, including but not limited to, Hot Water Music, the Lawrence Arms, and the Menzingers. Armed with a wide range of sounds, Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine are a breath of fresh air in a dying genre, proving to listeners everywhere that they don't need to make ska puns or include a song titled "Beer" just to fit in.

Musically each member plays their part well, with their brass section being particularly strong. From the Streetlight Manifesto-esque playing on Ridgewood to the cool jazziness of 22 Hours, Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine truly appreciates what it means to be a ska band; giving their full line up the opportunity to shine rather than only use them for whenever is convenient like so many third wave bands have done in the past. 

"Hey! You got orgcore in my ska!"
In terms of lyrics, the young band shows a wisdom beyond their years. Shouted lyrics such as "playing it safe, you've got me falling asleep/it doesn't matter how loud, it matters what you mean" from the opening track My Response to a Stephen Jerzak Concert are not what most listeners would expect when they think of ska bands, but it also shows the band means business and should not be taken lightly. Throughout Mickey's ten tracks, co-vocalists Mike Vizzi and Craig Shay deliver powerful line after line, working together in the same spirit as Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly, Tom May and Greg Barnett, or even Matt Canino and Phil Douglas. They each get their time in the spotlight, but they each complement the other so well that they're at their best when singing along side-by-side.

Mickey shows a lot of promise from an up-and-coming band. Rather than conforming to the expectations of ska bands, Eli Whitney mixes their upstrokes and brass section with rough gang vocals, and self-reflective lyrics that are both hopeful and jaded at the same time. In many ways, Mickey plays as if Sink or Swim had a child with Everything Went Numb.

This ain't your older brother's ska. This is the new wave.

Check 'em out on bandcamp:

No comments:

Post a Comment