Chuck Robertson, lead singer of Mad Caddies, has both branched out and stayed right in his wheelhouse with his new band, Ellwood. Comprising players who are (now) all active members of the Caddies—including Dustin Lanker on keyboards, formerly of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and Todd Rosenberg, the Caddies’ original drummer—Ellwood leaves behind the pop-punk leanings of Robertson’s main band and focuses on sun-drenched, reggae-touched ska tunes. Each of the nine songs on Lost in Transition communicates just fine, conveying a laid-back summer vibe all the way through the record. This is for the kind of dancing that won’t spill your beer, some grinning, swaying songs to pass through those steamy summer months. What’s surprising about this set is how, having left the charge of pop-punk behind, Robertson’s melodies and singing have become stronger. It also leaves room for some fine departures, like the spacey breakdown in “Sunshine Garden” or the soaring chorus on “Amsterdam Ray”. Sometimes it might get a bit too easy—the Starfucker-condemning “Mag Girl” feels ham-handed among these sweet tunes, and “Dancin’ Girl” isn’t quite the convincing dancefloor jam it could be—but overall Ellwood stands up to any of the Mad Caddies’ output. In the end, Lost in Transition stands as a solid ska record front to back. And that is a rare thing these days.
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