Review Summary: Good American ska in the style of the Eighties ska revival lead by Specials and Selecter.
Remember the early 2-Tone ska with The Specials, The Selecter, (English) Beat, and bands like Madness, or Bad Manners" Actually, do you remember ska at all" After the initial wave in the Eighties (actually, it was a revival of the Sixties style), the genre was more or less gone. In recent years Specials, Selecter and Madness all launched comebacks, but the reception was quite lukewarm. So what is a ska band, and an American ska band at that been doing for more than twenty years"
Obviously, trying to keep the Eighties ska flame burning. Umbrella Bed has been sticking to their ska guns since 1995 now, long-winding tours, particularly of Europe, six albums and quite a lot of flak from reviewers. While some might question why they are sticking to ska, no matter what you think of the genre, the more pertinent question should be - do they deserve the bad reviews they have been getting recently"
Based on Rotate, their most recent album, not really. After so many albums and such extensive touring the eight men strong band have really honed down their ska moves, particularly in two key elements of what is essentially feel-good dance music - the rhythm and brass section. On tracks like “Dark Days” or “These Final Days,” the band sounds like an extremely well-oiled machine. Everything they play involves a lot of energy and good music flow, so it is easy to presume they are quite a treat live.
Also, with the original ska revival, lyrics were either very socially conscious, like with The Specials or (English) Beat, or simple fun like Bad Manners. It was Madness that tried to keep some middle ground between the two. In that respect, Umbrella Bed try to keep that middle line between social issues and discussions of love situations.
What could be a problem with some listeners are two things - they don’t or don’t want to care about ska (a bit of a shame), or are ‘purists’ that could be bothered with Hellrocket’s vocals with an obvious American accent.
On the other hand, if you are in or want to remind yourself what fun ska can be, as something you can both listen and dance to (unless you have forgotten how that is done), you can do much worse than giving Umbrella Bed and Rotate a spin.