The Great Rock-Steady Swindle - The Slackers


The Slackers are a dichotomy; on the one hand, the New York sextet is a pacesetter in today’s ska movement, and on the other, they seem to be moving the sound progressively backward with each new release. Their 12th and latest long play, The Great Rock-Steady Swindle lovingly and expertly recreates the lo-fi mish-mash of ska, rock-steady, dub, soul, and garage rock that Slackers’ leader Vic Ruggiero calls, “Jamaican Rock ‘n Roll.” The keyboardist adds his own retro charm to the authentic, kitschy sonic palette, even dialing in a vintage organ tone to take the lead on an instrumental version of Bill Withers’ staple, Ain’t No Sunshine. On all the tracks, guitars twang through classic plate reverbs, thin and distorted vocals howl with soul into vintage astatic mics (I’m guessing). The rockin’ Bo Evil comes to mind. The Great Rock-Steady Swindle is buoyed with an island bounce that leaves you grinning, but repeated listens reveal more of The Slackers’ apparent yin and yang as Ruggiero goes on to explain, “Marcus (Geard, the bass player) writes these upbeat songs that sound like they’re really positive, but you get the weird impression that they’re may written by a homicidal maniac.” Indeed, one of the CDs instant standouts, Mr. Tragedy begins with the jolly English-accented declaration, “Allo, I’m Mr. Tragedy and I’m going to kill myself first!” The twisted tale of suicide that follows includes a joyous, marching chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Specials, Madness or English Beat record. The ‘Big Daddy’ Ed Roth-inspired sleeve design leaves no mistaking where and when these guys are coming from. The Great Rock-Steady Swindle is testament to the longevity of a band that continues to play and subsequently beat the odds.