Voodoo Glow Skulls: Steady As She Goes

Voodoo Glow Skulls
Steady as She Goes

Simply stated, this is one band you gotta listen to, if you want an honest appraisal of life among the not-so-rich-and-famous. You know, those men and women who either don’t live off the stock market, or who got brutally screwed by the alchemical accounting of Enron, Haliburton, Arthur Anderson, et al … Dick’s cronies. You might have read about them?

A note of caution: the Glow Skulls really is not a band for the Republican faithful who want to chant that mantra of compassionate conservatism crap. Not that they’re the voice of the Che Guevara fan club or anything, but listening to this album will give you a street-eye view of the system that our politicians are scrambling so hard to keep intact, what they call the “Interstate Disease”. Yes, boys and girls, this is a polemical album. It has an agenda. What the hell do expect from a bunch of guys from Riverside, California, where that same fresh ocean breeze that keeps the air so pleasant around coastal hotels and mansions blows the burning Los Angeles smog into a heavy ochre haze?

This band captures a very pervasive sound in Southern California, an acidic blend of hard-core, ska on speed, Latino, and some elements of rap … an edgier, angrier Oingo Boingo, if you will. I realize that could come off sounding like a back-handed compliment, but I don’t mean to say their sound is derivative (indeed, they’ve helped push the sound along), rather that they have built on a local sound that has allowed them to give voice to a community we might not hear otherwise.

The Voodoo Glow Skulls consists of the Brothers Casillas — Frank on vox, Eddie on guitar, and Jorge on bass — along with Jerry O’Neill on drums, Mason Ball on trumpet, and Brodie Johnson on trombone — and they cut their teeth on the Inland Empire punk scene, playing with bands like the Dickies, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and the Angry Samoans. They are part of what could be called a second wave of LA punk that tries to contend honestly with the So Cal mystique, on the one hand reveling in the rich (in multiple senses of the word) music/cultural scene, while deploring the growing socioeconomic disparity of the area, where mayors and city council members promise to address the “issues”, but then take kickbacks from developers and big businesses, ignoring the “Rat Traps” that too many families practically tear themselves apart to afford — “Tell the people what they want to hear / Keep them quiet for another year”. At the same time, the Glow Skulls also sing about “everyday” things like messed up friendships, parties, and basketball, with a warm, self-conscious humor — “We can’t dance, and we can’t sing / So we call it new jerk swing”.

At heart, the world the Voodoo Glow Skulls want to see is one of real “equal opportunity,” not the current Darwinistic, survival of the expensive PR scheme paradise. Thus, in parting, I leave you with the boys’ un-American Express Card words of wisdom:

May we suggest a new recipe
Something cool, no wanna-be’s
Do the homework find the page
And don’t criticize on who stays
Got the good thing, one that pays
Leave it alone please stay away
Create your own fight for the day
Too much plastic in the way

Amen, vatos.