2008 Indication Records
Self Medication isn’t just the title of the Slackers upcoming release, it’s a suggestion. Sample a heavy dose of your favorite remedy, and let your headphones do the rest. The Slackers have taken their recent affinity of Tropiclia and taken it one step further by adding strong US and Brazilian psychedelic elements to their already groovy ska and reggae.
The first truely stand-out track on the album is “Estranged”, with lyrics and vocals from Glen Pine. This foggy tune is as much reminiscent of Far East Reggae as it is The Fun Boy Three. Haunting is one way to put it, but haunted may be more appropriate. As with “Estranged”, the title track, “Self Medication,” reveals a side to Ruggiero’s keys that we haven’t heard before. Synthy and psychedelic, they push the skank rhythm to the dark and sinister sides of The Slackers’ psyches. But it’s the track, “Eviction” that finds the Slackers in theit most novel style of the record- this modern-day “In the Ghetto” recalls Blaxploitation soundtracks as well as classic Jamaican shanty songs.
“Stars” is arguably the most interesting track on the record. Ruggiero plays with vocal overdubs in this expansion of his solo style. However, this song reaches further than Vic’s one-man-band- until it’s dizzying climax fades into it’s lullaby denouement.
But the record isn’t experimental all over. In “Don’t You Want a Man,” Hillyard adds to his growing songbook of socially charged lyrics that sound like love songs. (Or is it a break-up tune that sounds like a protest song?) “Leave Me” and “Happy Song” are straight forward Ska with all the up-beat energy you’d expect, but in a classic Slackers move they have less-than-upbeat lyrical themes. “Happy Song,” in particular seems like a minor attempt, on Hillyard’s part, to simply cheer up.
Several songs on Self Medication explore the singing someone else’s song as a metaphor for standing up for the ideals of those you’ve allied yourself with. This idea of singing someone else’s “happy song” began in the song, “Close My Eyes,” and is now being echoed not only on “Happy Song” but on Sing Your Song”- and to a lesser degree, “Don’t Forget the Streets.” Take it or leave it, but I believe many of these tunes are an re-affirmation of commitment from the band. Nearly every member of the band contributed lyrics to The Slackers’ new album and I’ll keep listening for however long they decide to sing each other’s songs.
Look for it later this month.