At this stage of the game, we’ve become pretty keen at sussing out band’s little larcenies. Hip-hop has made us sonic detectives—we know where shit comes from. We know the original owners and we know the burglars. But we’re not merely musical ghostbusting. Sampling has conditioned us not to seek out the specters of influence, but the actual bones. Deal’s Gone Bad commit the ultimate form of flattery in fistfuls on their second album, Overboard.
Pleasant, well played and fun, this is a virtual re-write of the Pietaster’s Ooolooloo and Hepcat’s Right on Time. And while tracks like “I’m Sorry” and “Too Early Too Late” capture everything brilliant about new ska—Motown vocal phrasings and harmonies, melodic bass and rhythmic organ figures (the keyboards are a standout here)—they follow far too closely on the heels of the bands that perfected those elements. Mike Park’s vocals are impressive and compelling, but for all their Detroit-soul grit, they’re really just Steve Jackson (Pietaster vocalist) rehash.
Deal’s Gone Bad is at their best with the funny shit (“shiver me timber/you’ve got to treat it right to keep it limber/because your wood’s your one best friend/ you must remember.”) And the Pogues reference shows sparks of genius and originality. In the end, this is a great band bogged down by sheer love of their influences. Right now, they’re derivative. They won’t always be.
Stand Out Tracks: Too Early Too Late, I’m Sorry, Shiver Me Timber