K-Man and the 45s – Primed to Go!

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

K-Man and the 45s

Primes to Go! - STOMP Records

Whenever Montreal five-piece K-Man and the 45s release a new album, the host of other third wave ska bands buried in my itunes library receive a listening bump.  Inevitably I revisit like-minded visionaries like Buck-O-Nine, Jaya The Cat, and Mustard Plug, offering a healthy reminder as to why third-wave ska remains an underground staple that keeps on giving.  Four years after 2019’s Stand with the Youth, K-Man and company return for a back to basics skankin’ good time in their rambunctious full length follow-up, Primed to Go! 

The album art, depicting the band as a cast of zany, beast-like drivers in a style reminiscent of classic Voo-Doo Glow Skulls covers, sets the tone for a high octane thrill ride through forteen brass-heavy thumpers.  Opening with “Best on the Road,” the band showcases a classic synthesis of jumpy upstrokes, assertive but smooth horn blasts, and a steady mid-tempo style that evokes images of checkered suits and dark tinted eyewear.  The song hammers home K-Man and the 45s’ mantra of feeling energized and at your best while on tour, reveling in the journey and the thirty plus bookings that await on a sleepless cross country trek.  Armed with an infectious chorus and commanding instrumental bridge, ska fans will know exactly what to expect while roaring down the pavement with Primed to Go!.

If Primed to Go! was a hot rod, tracks like “59 Chevy,” “Really Happy Music” and “Red Guy Always Wins” would make up the chassis – offering a rock solid frame.   Armed with a quick jumpy tempo, “Really Happy Music” exemplifies the band’s knack for bouncy, upstroke fueled melodies that up the fun with salvo upon salvo of jubilant horn blasts.  The band mirrors this energy with accessible lyrics that initially feel light and airy, but often communicate a greater sense of purpose.  While most of the track features the repetitious chorus line, “Yeah really happy music, I need really happy music baby,” the surrounding verse paints a picture of needing some upbeat tunes to grapple with the problematic reality of working overtime by day and enduring toxic relationships by night.  Other tracks, like “Daytime Drinking” purely let the good times flow with an intoxicating mix of trombone, saxophone and quick tapping piano keys.  There’s an energy here that fans of Big D & the Kids Table will surely pick up on.

While K-Man and the 45s play to their strengths, they offer up enough sonic variance to keep the majority of these fourteen tracks feeling fresh.  For instance, “K-Man Style Way” is a casual tune featuring diverse percussion that shuffles across the stage with a cool confidence.  “Silhouette” follows suit, but this time with a bit of a dimly lit, smoke filled jazz club aura, enhanced by the sultry croon of duetting female vocals.  The band further pivots with an unexpected cover of country outlaw legend Hank Williams III’s “Rebel Within.”  Comparatively stripped down, the band manages an upstroke meets outlaw fusion that brings to mind labelmates Raygun CowboysK-Man and the 45s even sneak in a Ramones cover of “Commando” for good measure (a continuation of the tribute project, “Ska-Mones,” that the band has kept alive for approaching a decade). Returning to the hot rod analogy, this round of personality-rich tracks make up the eye-grabbing chrome flourishes, streamlined tail fins and juiced up engine.  

Primed to Go! does not disappoint – even if it plays it fairly safe within the realm of the third wave ska.  K-Man and the 45s have as much energy today – perhaps even more – than when they first arrived on the scene over a decade ago.  The whole troupe just feels like they’re having the time of their lives – and it’s damn infectious to boot.  To that end, anyone that doesn’t admit to at least tapping their foot in time to the rhythm is probably a little dead inside or just outright lying.  So shine those shoes, throw on a slick pair of shades and hit the road with K-Man and the 45s because Primed to Go! is a thrill ride worth sitting in on.