My first thought when I heard that The Hempsteadys were releasing Séance! Séance! was that this is going to be the party album of the fall. The self described P-Funk of Street Punk are known for their super high energy ska and reggae, as proven on their last album El Amor de Los Muertos, a rocksteady opera from 2015.
Much to my surprise Séance! Séance! opens with “Still Life With Woodpecker” and “Compass” a pair of songs that are reminiscent of 1372 Overton Park from Lucero, hard driving barroom rock with a horn section that delivers a punch. This sets the stage for the expectations from the rest of the album. Gone are the conceptual operatic love songs about monsters, here are heartfelt lyrics layered over hard driving rhythms with soaring guitars and a horn section that knows when to strike. “Classic Cars,” “Ghost of Joe Strummer” and “The Well” showcase this sound with surgical precision.
All of this does not mean that they have abandoned their ska reggae roots. The first reminder shows up on “When Dead are Undead”, which features the incomparable Vinny Noble, and delivers a song that picks up exactly where “Ghost Town” from the Specials leaves off. Its an eerie two-tone rocker with multiple solos that will haunt you well after the song ends. “Temple of Boom” continues this hauntingly good rocksteady vibe but gives us a little dub twist. Which is the absolute perfect slow down and recover before the banger that is “Rudy Comes From the Street,” a lively foot stomper that will definitely have you dancing to the beat. The album ends with “Box Fan” which made me think of all the nights I spent skanking to the English Beat. It is a steady rocking number with a horn line that defies you to not get off your feet.
If Bruce Springsteen had a one night stand with the Specials this would be the result. An album that makes me reach for my whiskey while compulsively heading for the dance floor. It’s straightforward rock and roll with a two-tone soul.