Montreal is one hell of a musical mecca in Canada. As well as boasting the country’s best annual punk fest (Pouzza) and one of the best rock fests (Amnesia), it has given birth to some of the best the Canadian punk scene has to offer. And within that network, Montreal’s Stomp Records, under the Union Label Group umbrella, has been leading the Canadian ska/reggae fight with an impressive roster of past and present North American bands including: The Aggrolites; Bedouin Soundclash; Big D & The Kids Table; Buck-O-Nine; Mustard Plug; The Toasters; Planet Smashers and Westbound Train. One of the homegrown reggae/ska purists Stomp has helped to kick off is the outfit known as The Beatdown.
One Night Band were a group of friends who were supposed to play a one-off show back in ’03 and, spurned on by their own desire to take their smooth reggae sounds and socially conscious lyrical message to a wider audience, as well as an almost immediate and enthusiastic show of support, they decided instead to take their asses to the masses.
For six years One Night Band hit the streets the way a blue collar group of rocksteady warriors should, clocking thousands of miles (kilometers in Canada) and hundreds of shows opening for some of reggae and ska’s biggest bands.
One Night Band is on a sort of hiatus, at least for now, and in its wake, a new band featuring some One Night Band members and the same gritty sound has emerged.
The Beatdown is a three piece, down from its original four, which itself was down from One Night Band’s original seven. And really, listening to the jams on the trio’s trio of releases, why have more? The guitar, bass, drum and occasional harmonica combo these dudes have going on sounds full and rich on every tune and the absence of frills like percussionists, backup singers and a horn section does not leave this sound wanting as far as these ears are concerned.
Despite only sporting four songs (it is an EP after all), ‘Let’s Go’ is one funky-ass slice of toe tapping machete-edged reggae, 1st wave ska and rocksteady. But don’t go in expecting the big band strings and harmony of The Specials, the soulful crooning of Johnny Nash or (another) Bob Marley rip off. This is hard edged street music at once remaining fully committed to the music that has been drifting over from sunny Jamaica for decades, while at the same time bringing the member’s own trials and experiences to the beats that repeat. Singer/guitarist Alex Giguere sounds like he just got off a marathon session of chain smoking filterless Camels and getting kicked in the throat by a man with a swollen foot. Which is a compliment in the best sense as his raspy v-box brings a down home grittiness to the sound that not only helps elevate the music, but gives it an originality in a genre where originally is sometimes hard to come by.
From the jumpy ska jam ‘You Never Know’ to the burning, spaghetti western-inflected instrumental ‘Chikago’ to the pure reggae gospel that is ‘Mary’ and the punk energy of ‘Let’s Go’ The Beatdown’s new EP, out on Spain’s Liquidation Records, is everything we’ve come to love and expect of this talented gang of bopsters. Here’s hoping a full length isn’t far behind.