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Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

The Slackers' Chilled-Out Greatness

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There was a time when the Slackers album, The Question, would spend weeks at a time in the car stereo. The record is a pure recreation of authentic Caribbean ska music, not dressed up in punk accouterments, as was the case with so many other "ska" bands that were on the airwaves in the mid-1990s. Some might find what the Slackers do closer to reggae, and maybe they're right, but classifications aside, The Question is decisively my favorite album of the genre.

But in the past eight years or so, I couldn't even be positive that the disc was still in my possession. That was before I heard that the Slackers were the next in a continuing line of ska bands to, somewhat oddly (but awesomely) play the Mountain's Edge Bar on the south end of town on Tuesday night. Further evidence of the Mountain's Edge's plan to become Oregon's integral ska venue (if that's possible) is the fact that just before The Slackers arrive, the Voodoo Glow Skulls play the joint on Friday night.

A few weeks ago, I located my copy of The Question and have given it a few spins, reminding myself of why I was so enamored with this NYC-based sextet. While I was sleeping on The Slackers over the past few years they've remained active, pumping out records, as evidenced by their upcoming release, The Great Rocksteady Swindle, which will drop on April 20. Go ahead, make a 4/20 joke. Got it out of your system? Good.

Anyway, the band is fronted by the smoothly soulful vocals of organ player Vic Ruggiero, who thankfully doesn't dress his style up with any faux patois, relying rather on an old-school approach to rock-and-roll singing. The horns are precise and clean and the beats are perfect for a summer (or spring) back porch evening. There are times when these guys sound like something that would have been picked up on an AM radio in the Caribbean circa 1971. And perhaps that's what this band, which has rotated members during nearly two decades touring the world yet maintains a fiercely loyal fan base, is going for with their relaxing (and addictive) island sound.

Or maybe they just really want to see how long they can keep their album on repeat in your car.

The Slackers

9pm Tuesday, March 30. Mountain's Edge Bar. 61131 S. Highway 97.

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