Album Review: Save Ferris – Chequered Past [EP]

A lot has happened since Save Ferris last released a body of new material. Their last album Modified was released the best part of two decades ago and since then the hype that made Ska Punk one of the quintessential sounds of the 90s has died down significantly. Whilst bands such as Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Rancid are still going, they are largely (and some would say regrettably) taking a back seat in the modern day music industry to bands with a more pop-orientated sound and commercial brand.

The beauty of Ska Punk however is that from its inception right up until modern day, it has always maintained its roots in the underground. It is kept alive by its strong contingent of dedicated fans who have passed down the infectious sense of community to the next generations. This is why the demand for more Save Ferris music exists and why after a successful pledge music campaign they are set to release their new EP Chequered Past on February 10th 2017 – their first release since October 1999.

The EP kicks off with a frantic bass line to introduce the up tempo Anything. Right off the bat you’re transported to a scene somewhere under the southern California sun where a party of punk-rockers sporting flat caps and mohawks have gathered to skank and mosh. This dedication to a significant other is a nice reintroduction to the band.

New Sound halts the pace of the first track altogether. Neville Staples formerly of Ska legends The Specials lends vocals in this standout track that not only showcases the genres long standing association with Reggae and 2-Tone, but the bands versatility and willingness to mix things up. Here Front Woman and only mainstay band member Monique Powell shows off some very nicely polished vocals which sound reminiscent of Joss Stone during her stint with Superheavy. This is not only a highlight from this EP but one of the best songs released under the Save Ferris name.

The up-tempo is restored with Golden Silence and then Do I Even Like You which channel the band’s earlier work. There is some anger and frustration on display here with the lyrics seeming to refer to a turbulent time in Monique’s life. There’s no doubt that the writing of these lyrics appear very organic almost as if she was writing her thoughts down directly on to paper. It has unfortunately produced some pretty uninspired and repetitive lyrics and could have done with a little more work. The saxophone solo on Golden Silence is a nice touch however and ultimately salvages what might have been an average track otherwise.

The EP closes with the mellow Goodbye Brother. The lyrics pertain to coping with personal loss and the sense of resulting sadness is ever-present throughout what is quite a sombre track. The traditionally upbeat Ska style trumpet and guitar are still present, but Monique captures some very heartfelt themes and at times her vocals are sung in a way that you might expect to hear more from a country artist than the front woman of a Ska band.

On paper this EP shouldn’t be as good as it is. Chequered Past is a little bag of mixed emotions that seems to start off happy but then proceeds to go on a journey whilst carrying heavy baggage with it. Connotations of struggle with an array of different issues are present throughout and while the lyrical work lacks at times, overall the music seems refreshed and purposeful. It’s fun while being serious and at under sixteen minutes long will have listeners yearning for a full length follow-up. One can only hope that it won’t be another seventeen years!

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