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Fifteen
Surprise!
Grass

In true punk spirit, Fifteen rants about the ills of society. From gang wars ("Armed Gangs") to female objectification ("Whore") to AIDS ("Nancy's Song"), listeners are bombarded with deep conversation starters. Additional rabble-rousing political commentary is included in the liner notes, along with action-affirmative lyrics. "Who cares if 'Bad Rancid Day Breaker' ... got sold to the highest bidder. Life's better down here in the real world," writes guitarist Jeff, even though Grass Records is distributed by major label BMG Entertainment. Despite that moment of hypocrisy, Fifteen rightfully belongs to the West Coast punk scene, combining clanging cymbal-istic drumming, tighter beats and brawny vocals with sparking electric guitar. The result is sturdy melodies, addictive tunes and a quality album. No surprise there, but don't say I didn't warn you about the ultimate overthrow of power--the "roadie revolution"--that occurs on the album's "surprise" track. (Bernice Yeung)


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The Skatalites
Greetings From Skamania
Shanachie

Prior to ska's advent in the early 1960s, Jamaican musicians were working out a tropical version of Dizzy Gillespie's hot bop. That changed when the eccentric but brilliant trombonist Don Drummond muscled in on the scene sometime around 1962. A year later, what would become Jamaica's premier instrumental unit, the Skatalites, was hatched under producer Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd's indefatigable stewardship. Besides the group's single-handed construction of ska, this extraordinarily talented aggregation also heavily influenced rock-steady and rhythmic reggae as we know it today. More than three decades have passed, but the Skatalites survive, the original lineup more or less intact. On Skamania, that roster is augmented by some stellar jazz players: trombonist Steve Turre, alto player Bobby Watson and percussionist Larry McDonald. The album doesn't break any new ground, but it does reaffirm the lasting legacy of the band and idiom. The tunes sport sturdy herky-jerky backbeats over which the unit essays woozy but finely wrought jazzland solos. "Skalloween" and "Phoenix City" are unbridled party tracks aimed straight at the feet. "Trip to Mars" is pure fantasy island fare. No doubt: This is the real deal. (Nicky Baxter)


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Steve Sherman

Bruce Lee Band
Bruce Lee Band
Asian Man

When Mike Park broke off from Skankin' Pickle to start his own record label, he also brought four of Dill Records' acts with him: MU330, Slapstick, Less Than Jake and this group. The self-titled collection of odd acoustic and ska-core ditties features Park and members of Less Than Jake. It's everything you'd expect from the former front man, mixing politics, tributes and the occasional Korean language lesson ("Hongulmamotaya" and "Komsomida") set to uplifting ska-core. The standout is hearing Park unplugged. With an acoustic guitar for accompaniment, he sings about the frustration of being stereotyped in high school ("Don't Sit Next to Me Just Because I'm Asian") and performs a hysterical tribute to "Mr. Hanalei," the wizened Hawaiian character who led the Brady Bunch boys to the ancient tiki burial grounds. Park also reveals a refreshing ultrapolitical side on "Brother, Brother," venting frustration at the way the media distorted Koreans after the L.A. riots. Bruce Lee Band is proof Park has a post-Pickle life worth relishing. For information, write P.O. Box 35585, Monte Sereno, 95030­5585. (Todd S. Inoue)

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From the July 18-24, 1996 issue of Metro

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