Following a couple of singles and EPs, this 2013 full-length from The Best of the Worst captures the band on top form. ‘Perspectives’ includes many of the necessary ingredients for a great skacore experience: the juxtaposition of tough riffs and shiny horn parts combined with a knack for the off-kilter leads to a listening experience where the necessary attitude is present in spades. These guys appear to put so much more thought into their craft than so many of their better-known contemporaries; their music is often so busy, it leaves the listener constantly on catch-up…and with so much of a kitchen sink approach, this is an album which just keeps on giving.
Following an instrumental intro, ‘Jonestown 1978’ hits the listener straight up with metallic riffs and first-rate hardcore punk vocals, before making a switch to some ska based chops. We’re not talking lightweight TV-friendly bouncing ska, though…TBotW attack their muted chords with a real sense of urgency and an anger which – by the time of this release – has long since vanished from so many other bands. The metal elements bring a solid sound which, once topped by a full compliment of horns, recalls the like of Link 80 and Against All Authority. Even by time the angriness subsides for a pre-chorus – the hardcore voice handing over to a more melodic vocalist – TBotW’s DIY ethics are still evident. A little more accessible, ‘Paperweight’ brings the ska to the fore. With the cleaner vocal taking the lead, there is a passing resemblance to Less Than Jake’s formative years, though it’s not long before they crank up the intensity with another slab of metallic hardcore. A push and pull between the dual vocal always keeps things interesting, while Garrett Weber’s guitar work shifts effortlessly between each of the styles crammed into under three minutes.
If you came looking for pure ska, you get that too in the shape of the instrumental number ‘Spagett’s Revenge’. Tackling something with full on bounce, a brilliantly executed bass line (courtesy of Ryan Kosinski) lays the foundations for a brilliant tune over which Kate Meyer’s trombone lead evokes the feeling of Rico and old Blue Beat records (albeit dressed up with a touch more pace). It’s not that the band have wimped out, of course…without missing a beat, they segue into ‘Fight of Your Life’, a track which perhaps utilises nearly every trick TBotW possesses. The hardcore punk comes in waves, the skacore moments are solid – although the vocal here is wobbly at times – and to finish, there’s a touch of funk, driven by some more hard-edged guitar chords. For other maximum ska-based thrills, ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ has a great vibe, mixing a classic punk riff with intermittent ska hits, where the horn section really comes alive. In terms of riff choice, energy and all round class, this song belongs to those brass players, proving themselves an equal match for the intense metal edge, when they could have easily been lost in the mix.
On ‘Blindsided’, you’ll find elements of angry alternative rock mixed with more hardcore punk where the vocals are reminiscent of UK punk ‘n’ rollers The Computers. While not bringing any different elements into the band’s sound, the blend of punk, ska and twisted melodies (helped no end by drummer Joe Scala’s insistence on quirky off-beat moments), is very fine indeed, while the direct assault of ‘Speechless’ shows influence from Heckle – a much overlooked New Jersey punk band. While the multi-faceted elements of TBotW often work through sheer ballsiness, this track could have perhaps dispensed with the horns, especially once a decision is taken to shift things towards a Strife styled full-on assault. Individually, though, there are some superb moments here.
Even at their most commercial, there’s nothing sanitised about The Best of the Worst’s sound; nothing that even remotely suggests they’re headed for being taken on the road as a permanent fixture with Aaron Barrett, playing to fifteen year olds until everyone gets bored with them. This band understands the delicate balance between song and anger, of bounce and chug…and ‘Perspectives’ has many moments of sheer brilliance as a result.