The Planet Smashers, who released their sixth album “Fabricated" in the harrowingly weak music market that was 2002, may have finally broken the unwritten barrier that makes a band great—a barrier whose presence we are all aware of. The Smashers, who depict third-wave Ska at its absolute purist and most admirable form, are, undoubtedly, one of the most underrated and unknown contributors to the genre; boasting a ten-year tenure which has seen them release eight albums. However, unlike the rest of the pack, “Fabricated" stands out from the rest—combining old favorites with what are now unforgettable songs—particularly to those who are intense fans.
Yeah, I have a hard time believing these guys have been so underground too.
Ska is not always about lyrics—and don’t get me wrong, the Planet Smashers are some of Ska’s most concise lyricists—but, the music itself is about intensity; something that isolates it from the rest of the music world, and arguably creates the strongest sense of engagement with its listeners. This is where the Planet Smashers come in, expressing all of the bold elements that makes Ska what it is for us today. This album is not only extremely catchy; it is intelligent, passionate and impressive. We are rewarded with these in the most obvious of fashions through “Fabricated", an album that no self-respecting Ska fan’s collection should be without.
We appreciate Ska not only for these things though, but even on its most basic levels; things such as it’s speed, pattern and length. Smasher songs can be quick or slow, they can be circular or full of curves, and they can be short or long. If you have never had the chance to sample some of their music, simply imagine a band with the character of The Aquabats, combined with the stellar Streetlight Manifesto—oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if you threw a bit of versatility into the imaginary mix either.
On to the track reviews…
I found it incredibly difficult to peg standout tracks on this disc, but just to put this in perspective; I have two copies—so obviously I love this band and hence the difficulty making selections. I won’t break down every song, but I have made an effort to pick songs that have plenty of variety, so it’s just the select few listed below:
2.) Life Of The Party
4.) Surfin’ In Tofino
10.) Super Orgy Porno Party
11.) My Decision
Life Of The Party – This track is arguably the Planet Smashers most popular, catchy, and best produced track. It is pure quality. We are immediately brought into an energetic beginning, in which case we get a very quick Ska riff, and power horns leading the way alongside. This is the first track on the album with actual singing (the first is an instrumental), and personally, I find the Smashers to own the second best Ska singer in Matt Collyer. For clarifications sake, I find him second only to former Catch 22, Streetlight Manifesto, and now Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution’s Tomas Kalnoky—and if you have ever heard Kalnoky sing, you would know he is not only talented, but that he is quick, catchy and upbeat. The Smashers provide a similar punch vocally, and won’t disappoint in this respect. The one thing you will notice about many of the Planet Smasher songs, particularly this one, is that they appear to be made for live performances—yes, they are all that catchy.
Fabricated – This is the title track of the album, which also lead the way as being the first original single released from it, and lives up to its expectations in both departments in a sound fashion. It starts out similar to Life of the Party, except it appears slower. The song in itself though, has a raw, more Indie feel to it—as if it was a song produced on an EP that you discovered in an attic somewhere; something that was never meant to be found. The music does feel personal in this sense, and you can almost feel lucky that you are listening to it. You won’t find it to be a very long wait before you’re singing along vigorously to the chorus: “We are fabricated. We are regulated. We will fight to control the truth." I love it each and every time I hear it.
Surfin’ In Tofino – Now, if you weren’t sure exactly what I meant, or picked up the album and didn’t hear any “meant to be played live" kind of tone in the prior tunes, give this one a listen and you’ll discover exactly what I’m trying to get at. The intro starts off with a tribal sounding drum beat, and then we are instantly transported to the sandy beaches of Tofino—namely due to the inviting horns and quick Ska riffs. The chorus is also equally as easy to sing along to: “We’re going’ Surfin’ in Tofino. Woo hoo hoo! And we’re never coming back!" Of course, if you want to catch the real core of the Planet Smasher flavor, make sure you don’t flip or dismiss this track before hitting the interlude. No one can pass up a “1…2…3…4…5,6,7,8,9 TEN!" These are always crowd pleasers.
Super Orgy Porno Party – The funniest song on the album by far, as this song does hold some immaturity in it. I mean, the lyrics itself are headed straight down this direction, as the chorus repeats the track’s title repeatedly. However, there is never anything wrong with a silly moment—especially in Ska—and we find it a memorable moment at that. The intro starts out with a sax solo, along side a funny dialogue that poses a funny, although not so philosophical question. I’ll leave it up to you to grab the album and have some fun with this song. It is a slower, more Reggae-like song, even Jazzy, but a very hard song to ignore; and is probably harder not to like.
My Decision – This is, by far, my favorite song on the album. Here we get an intense tone of demand, direction and independence. The title says it all in this regard, and the singing is even more rebellious. This song is also written with the highest degree of consideration and quality: “Truth is left unspoken, belief is but a token, understand the issues, don't concede the right to choose". There is also a killer sax solo during the interlude of the song, which is actually located near the latter of its 3:20 length. The guitar’s tone has also changed for this song. It is less clean, and has an obvious distortion applied, giving it that matching tone of rebellion and independence that the lyrics imply. This song acknowledges all basics of Ska, making it simply enjoyable.
The Planet Smashers are a fusion band of Ska—incorporating punk-like distortions, effective bass lines, quick Ska riffs, thoughtful lyrics, and catchy horn action all compiled into one respectable package. Ultimately though, I find that due to their lesser-known status in the world of Ska, that this band becomes even more enjoyable. They are not a breath of fresh air per se, but they are an impressive find for anybody looking for catchy, happy-toned Ska music that flies under the radar.
Remember, Ska first.