The Beatdown -Self-Titled

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

The Beatdown

Self-Titled - STOMP Records

When it comes to Montreal Ska, one man has seen in all: producer Alex Giguere.  With a diverse roster including local legends past and present – including The Planet Smashers, The Real Deal, andStaylefish – he’s covered everything on the front line from third wave ska to what might be termed snotty ska punk.  But when he pulls up a chair and guitar and sings into a microphone at his own leisure, he lets go of the present day and harkens back to the genre’s 2 tone roots.

Giguere fronted and produced his own project, One Night Band, a few years back.  The project, originally only intended for a single showing, consisted of a rotating cast of local talent, but eventually resulted in Giguere pulling most of the weight.  By their second album they had lost their distinct female vocal contributions, and based on my listening at the time, Giguere was far from ready to pick up the slack.  Their final result lacked an essential “oomph,” and Giguere’s French Canadian accented vocals felt strained, forced, and frustrated.

Fast-forward to the present and we find Giguere trying his talented hand at a new venture: The Beatdown and its freshly released self-titled effort.  What a difference a couple years and a new group of friends can make.

First off, Giguere sounds so much more relaxed.  He still comes across just as odd as ever (choppy and grainy might be good adjectives), but now he sounds like he’s really enjoying himself – as if relieved from a cumbersome burden.  The opening track, “It’s Alight,” cushions Giguere with an echo of supporting voices that repeat the track’s uplifting title every few lines.  A track later on “One Night” he relaxes even further, sounding as if he’s lounging in the shade with a cold one in hand.  The backing band pipes up several tracks later for “Justice,” where their simple “yeah, yeah, yeah” doles out a similar stress free vibe.

This is first and foremost a summer album.  Behind Giguere, bassist Pascal Lesieur lays down a thumping bassline drawn from dub inspired reggae acts like The Aggrolites.  In fact, “Let Me Take You Out” is so meaty that even at low volumes it ends up vibrating my entire car.  These are the types of depthy pulsations that really get under one’s skin and speak to the soul.

Furthermore, The Beatdown boasts a score of other fantastic musical additions.  In addition to the various percussions, steel drums, and vibraslap offered by the quartet, Giguere also brought in several of his other friends to lend their talents.  The Planet Smashers’ Josh Fuhrman contributes his tenor saxophone on “Get Ready,” Larry Love makes a return from One Night Band with both his quivering organ on tracks like “Mad Dog” (which really flares up for the band’s theme song in “Beatdown”) and soft piano keys for others like “Tell Me Why;” and Kman & The 45s member Patty Tee shows up with a few trombone blasts.  All the instruments, regular and guest, come and go as they please, showing up from time to time like a friend with a flat and an open door policy.  And for all these special guests, the whole affair is incredibly smooth.

As far as I’m concerned, The Beatdown is how One Night Band should have sounded.  Fans of The ToastersThe AggrolitesThe Slackers, and especially The Specials should find a comfortable home for The Beatdown amidst their library and playlists.  There’s nothing terribly new here, but really, who ever gets tired of chilling on a summer’s day in the shade?  The band knows how to play old school reggae with the best of them, and their instrumental repertoire ensures there are no dull moments – hands down Giguere’s best work, and certainly a summer album worth checking out.