My view: 'In Retrospect' by The Toasters
By Jeremy Castillo
Special to the Advertiser
By Jeremy Castillo
Editor's note: The Toasters brings its Ska Brawl Tour to the Pipeline Cafe tonight; Isle bands Go Jimmy Go and Black Square also perform. Doors open at 5 p.m., show at 6 p.m. $25. For tickets: (877) 750-4400.
CD: "In Retrospect" by The Toasters; Stomp Records
Release: Oct. 21, 2003
My take: The Toasters is arguably one of the most important groups in the history of American ska, if not the most important one. It helped popularize the genre in the late '80s and early '90s, building a foundation for just about every ska band, from the mainstream Mighty Mighty Bosstones to up-and-coming local group Black Square.
And like many bands that helped shape the American musical landscape, it was formed by a British citizen, Rob "Bucket" Hingley, who rounded up a few comic book employees to create The Toasters in 1982. A year later, the band released its first single, "Beat Up." Bucket also created his own record label, Moon Ska Records, amid skepticism that a ska label could succeed in the U.S.
But in a genre that doesn't overflow with longevity, The Toasters has thrived, despite a revolving-door lineup policy. And in 2003, it released a compilation CD.
"In Retrospect" offers a solid lineup of songs from many of The Toasters' classic albums, including 1987's "Skaboom," 1988's "Thrill Me Up," and 1990's "This Gun for Hire," to the more recent stuff, such as 2002's "Enemy of the System."
Despite many songs having a huge musical generation gap between their recording dates and today's fans, most of the material in this record is timeless. The bass and keyboard intro in "Razor Cut" is still refreshing to hear, and so is the energetic "Weekend in L.A." The uptempo, romantic "Thrill Me Up" is the kind of earnest song that today's bands try to write and miss the mark. "History Book Version" is easily the best track here, with its imaginative depiction of characters we've all read about in a textbook at one time or another, with the fast-singing parts resembling the delivery of a roots reggae song.
Some of the Toasters' material is sadly left out here, such as "Pool Shark," a narrative about a burly billiards hustler, and "Johnny Go Ska," the band's rendition of the Chuck Berry classic "Johnny B. Goode." However, these omissions are forgivable in light of the excellent material throughout. Ska fans who got most of their knowledge from No Doubt's early career will surely benefit from picking up this compilation, as would anybody who wants to know what the genre sounds like in its purest form.
The Toasters are a rare occurrence in the music business: They introduced ska to a wide American audience, spawned tons of bands and are still around to enjoy the fruits of their labor by pleasing their older fans and winning new ones. Only a few bands still recording can make that claim — The Rolling Stones comes to mind first. So to call the Toasters "The Stones of Ska" wouldn't be too much of a stretch.
Jeremy Castillo is a student at Windward Community College and editor of the college's newspaper, Ka 'Ohana.