Getting the chance to review the forthcoming album from Big D & The Kids Table was a pretty interesting ‘blast from the past.’ I was in college in Boston when the band were still in their early years. As such, I got the chance to see them play live a bunch (both at their own gigs and in opening slots), and I’m pretty sure that I played their “Shot By Lammi” split with Drexel so often that the laser from the CD player burned a hole in the disc. That’s an obvious overstatement, but you get the idea. Back in the day, (I generally hate when people say that, by the way), I was more a fan of the Big D stuff that featured former vocalist Marc Flynn. I enjoyed “Good Luck,” but when Flynn left and the third-wave ska scene flamed out, I honestly lost track of what Big D were up to.
Fast forward more than a decade, and Bid D & The Kids Table are obviously still in the game. The lineup has changed (several times over in some places), and the band are now signed to SideOneDummy Records, but in many ways the music is still the same and fits like an old, worn-in baseball glove. “For The Damned, The Dumb & The Delirious” features seventeen songs of classic third wave ska, touching all ends of the spectrum that ranges from smoke-’em-if-ya-got-’em reggae to Bosstones-style ska-core (though the review copy had eighteen songs – more on that later).
If you read that last sentence closely, something may have jumped out at you: this album contains seventeen songs. Frankly, that’s a lot. None of the songs on “For the Damned…” are NOFXian 35-second filler tracks. In fact most tracks break the three- or four-minute barrier, making listening to “For The Damned…” feel much more like a marathon than a sprint.
By and large, the music on “For the Damned…” is tight. The Big D fellas know how to craft a ska-punk tune for every mood. You want straight up, third wave ska a la Buck-O-Nine (or like traditional Big D, I suppose)? They bring you “Modern American Gypsy,” “Not Our Fault” and “Stringers.” You want slowed down, Second Wave tune with a pretty rad trumpet solo? They give you “Destination Gone Astray.” Want a booze-infested party-skank song? They hit you with “Clothes Off.” In the mood for more of a Street Dogs/Bouncing Souls-style punk ballad? They present “Home” for your approval. Want a song that mirrors Bouncing Souls’ “Badass”? They’ve got “Brains-a-bomb.” They’ve even got a newer Dropkick Murphys style barroom singalong in “Best of Them All.” As I said, there really is something for everyone. Musically, “For the Damned, the Dumb and the Delirious” is a solid, four-star album. The guitars, drums and bass are tight, and the horns and keys are understated for the most part and allowed to really shine when necessary.
The lyrics and vocals are another story. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never been a fan of the vocal stylings of David McWane (as I said above, I preferred the Marc Flynn tunes). I was hoping that a decade of not hearing anything by Big D would change that, but after a couple of songs, I’d had enough. When he keeps the songwriting to things like booze and girls and hanging out (“Riot Girl,” “Best Of Them All,” bonus track “As Long As We’re Cool” and the like), McWane’s voice and lyrics are at least serviceable. But McWane makes a habit of going back to the anti-profiteer, anti-Republican, anti-war well in a way that may have sounded timely or even poignant in 2004. At this point, however, it just sounds tired and rehashed, like the band missed the proverbial bus. And there is way too much over-production and over-singing (or actually under-singing in a few cases) on most every song the album to make it enjoyable. If the album were seven or eight songs shorter, it would have been much more palatable. As I said before…seventeen songs is a marathon.
“For the Damned, the Dumb and the Delirious” is due out June 7th on SideOneDummy Records.