Does anyone remember the Long Beach Dub All-Stars? Their first album came out in the late 90’s, the band consisted of members of Sublime (I believe they came together after Bradley Knowell passed away), and they took concepts from Sublime’s punk/ska/reggae roots and slowed everything down. Anyway, that’s the first really popularized version of Dub that I can think of - at least as far as my experience with it. Listening to Town Radio’s new EP, Vol 1: Fresh From the Future, I’m right back in late high school in the best way possible.
The late 90’s were when I found Ska. Bands like Hepcat, The Slackers, The Pietasters, and The Skalars were doing more traditional things, while punk and hardcore adjacent bands like The Suicide Machines, Buck-O-Nine, Spring Heeled Jack, and Mustard Plug were doing their own thing. All of them were kicking ass. In the midst of that revival - or renaissance, depending on how you want to look at it - there were a lot of other things happening in that realm, and labels like Hellcat, Moon Ska, Mojo and many others were releasing too much good Ska to keep up with. If you’re at all a fan of Ska - now or then - I highly recommend checking out the super fun documentary, Pick It Up! But I digress.
With 6 immaculately produced tracks, Town Radio isn’t so much a “band” as a collective that’s crafted a love letter to Dub, Reggae, and Ska while absolutely making something they can proudly share as their own. The only real fault I can find with the entire thing is that it’s far too short - I’d take a full album or two of this right now if they had it. Honestly, I can’t think of anyone listening to an album this well-produced, especially a ska/reggae/dub album as good as this, who would be like, “No, not for me.” If someone you know says something like that, they hate fun, plain and simple.
Featuring former members of Cincinnati’s own The Pinstripes and The Cliftones, among others, the album was conceived of and brought together by The Cliftones’ Chris Madine and former drummer for Gary Clark Jr., Johnny Radelat. On bonafides alone, the album would have been a proper lesson in craftsmanship and creativity. What we’re given is an EP that warrants, maybe even demands, repeat listenings. My personal favorite track - and I’m hard pressed to even explain why since they’re honestly all great - is “Planet Radio.” If nothing else, add that track to a Winding Down or Chillaxin’ or whatever the kids are saying playlist and enjoy.
If you’re looking to vibe out for a few minutes, and then a few more minutes when you inevitably hit play again to start the EP over, Town Radio is essentially flawless. Stellar from start to finish, should the collective ever coalesce into a live band, I’ll be there with my mask and bells on, vibin’. Stream and purchase, immediately, here.