Welcome fans of the Dance Hall Crashers--Reviews
of DHC. Select an album below to go to the reviews.
It's easy as pie
to swear allegiance to certain sounds and then regurgitate them,
ad infinitum. Look at all the new `punk' bands who play cheap,
watered-down versions of ska and reggae-sounds suspiciously like
old Clash albums, right? Well, every great once in a fucking
while some group actually assimilates its influences, digests
`em in its system, and spits out a happy new hybrid that's like
nothing you've ever heard before, nothing you can put your finger
on. Porkpie hats off, then, to Berkeley's brainy Dance Hall Crashers,
a neo-ska combo that's whipped so many sounds into its frothy
punk batter that the recipe is unreadable. With a pair of Blondie-schooled
female co-vocalists-Elyse Rogers and Karma "Karina"
Schwarz (Denike)-and a couple of guitarists as adept at punk,
New Wave, and power pop as they are at that old choppity-chop,
happy-feet ska rhythm, this band is one of the freshest new faces
on the cluttered alternative scene. From the bopping pep of "Queen
For A Day" to the rude-girl raveup of "Too Late"
to the pleasantly puerile chime of "Shelly," this stellar
bow is jumping from beginning to end, the kind of album you can
play for all your poseur Mohawked buddies next time they drop
by to mooch beer. Watch `em scratch their spiky heads and mumble
"Jeez, what kinda music IS this, anyway?" The best
kind, dumbo-intelligent music.
Dance Hall Crashers have developed quite a bit
over the past two years. While 1995's Lockjaw was full of competent
but unremarkable ska, Honey I'm Homely is two-tone power-pop
brimming with infectious hooks. The specter of gritty punk seems
to be a thing of the past, with all of the fuzzy edges smoothed
out and shined up. Have no fear, rude boy: You can still skank
to Honey, I'm Homely, but you might have to learn a few
new steps. Along with several bouncy numbers that are bound to
give your neck a workout, you also get a few that display the
band's depth of influences. "Next To You" is a breezy,
piano-thumping tune that struts along with the verve of the Monkees'
"Daydream Believer." Take away the punchy arrangement
of "Last Laugh," and you have an early-'60s Brill Building
hit. The quintet now knows when to let up on the gas for dramatic
flair. Drummer Gavin Hammon sneaks nuance into rhythm parts that
could have easily fallen into the 1-2-3-4 mold; his brother Jason
layers his brassy rhythm parts with acid rock leads. The harmonies
of Elyse Rogers and Karma Denikérecall everything from
Bananarama's sassy soul to the Andrews Sisters' saccharine swing.
It makes the `80s seem fun again.
For nine years now, Berkeley, California's
Dance Hall Crashers (who took their name from a '60s Jamaican
Ska anthology) have been working on the upbeat end of ska music,
using guitars to propel their music rather than the big horn
sections used by many other ska bands. The Crashers' last album,
1995's Lockjaw, led the band to tour with the likes of Bad Religion,
the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, NOFX and Pennywise. On Honey,
I'm Homely, the group's anticipated new album, Elyse Rogers
and Karma Denike's vocal harmonies take on a '50s-style pop sound,
and the songs are both sarcastic and full of danceable fun The
15-song collection opens with the vibrant bounce of "Lost
Again," whose pleading chorus goes, "I know where I
wanna go/But I just don't know/Just don't know how to get there,"
and is set to a catchy rhythm with the chops to attract the No
Doubt fanbase, although the Dance Hall Crashers aren't as purely
pop. They are, however, all about a good time, which is evident
in the album's swift, jump-up-and-dance pace. Some un-Homely
favorites include: "Next To You," "All Mine,"
"Elvis & Me" and "The Truth About Me."
The Dance Hall Crashers'
peppy, rough-and-tumble fourth album is an exhilarating good
time, marked by the band's rascally spirit. Purr, a fun collection
of 12 boisterous, ska-infused pop-punk jolts, is also the band's
tightest effort to date. It begins with eye-opening immediacy,
as rumbling drums kick into zippy, up-tempo punk rock. The strong
harmonies of co-frontwomen Elyse Rogers and Karina Denike characterize
these spirited tunes, which never slow up until the album-closing
ballad, "Cricket." The rude set should be forewarned,
however -- the record's energetic punk riffing and percussive
shockwaves outweigh the toned-down syncopated rhythms.