Review Summary: The modest beginnings of members of Alkaline Trio and The Lawrence Arms and an all around fun ska/punk record.
Slapstick was the humble beginnings of both Brendan Kelly from The Lawrence Arms and Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio. They were a six piece ska/punk band that put out a few EP's and singles in the early 90's that were compiled into this self titled release. Slapstick came around in the time in between Operation Ivy and the Third Wave Ska explosion in 1997, and they definitely sound like it. Slapstick were basically a punk band with horns, as the members were self admittedly not ska experts and just a bunch of punks who were into ska for a while. Once their ska phase ran it's course they broke up and most of the members moved on to other bands. Dan Andriano went on to play in Alkaline Trio, while Brendan Kelly and Dan Hanaway formed The Broadways. They left behind a legacy of catchy ska/punk tunes and moved on to form more popular bands.
The self titled Slapstick
is a compilation of most of the bands songs, 25 to be exact. This album is a lot to digest, with 25 tracks and a running time of about 55 minutes it's best taken in with two sittings. The album as a whole doesn't have a lot of replay value as many of the songs blend together and their are only a few standout tracks.
The opening track "There's A Metalhead In The Parking Lot" is one of the last songs the band ever wrote and definitely one of the best. It has a really catchy sing along chorus and some great bass work. It shows how much potential the band had that would later be fulfilled in later bands. The punk cover of "Earth Angel" is nice, that song is always great to hear. "Johnny" the longest song on the album clocking in at 3:32 is not only the longest song but the worst song. It's grating and repetitive and one of the only skippable tracks on the album.
Brendan Kelly's is known for his gruff vocal work in The Lawrence Arms, and his delivery is no different on this album. His vocals are even rougher and a lot less melodic, and it's apparent his vocals needed a lot of development. Brendan is known for his remarkable lyrics, but unfortunately the lyrics are really hard to make out on this album. While Brendan didn't sound as good here than on future releases, Dan's bass playing is actually some of the best he's ever done. Ska is known for more intricate bass lines and Dan really shows off on this album. The rest of the instrumentation is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. The guitar work is pretty standard for the genre, switching between punk power chords and ska upstroke chords. The horns are not as good as future third wave ska bands, but that's to be expected as they were one of the first American ska/punk bands at the time to use horns extensively. This record is best enjoyed while viewing it as a punk album with horns rather than as a predominately ska record.
While Slapstick might not seem very special today, they were a much bigger deal when they were around. The served as the very important bridge between bands like Operation Ivy and most third wave ska. This album is mainly enjoyed by big ska fans and completionist fans of The Lawrence Arms and Alkaline Trio that want to here were the members of these bands came from. Slapstick
is a fun ride, but is hampered by it's exhausting running time and its lack of originality by today's standards.