Buck-O-Nine has returned with their first album in over twelve years. FunDayMental finds the ska veterans doing what they do best, combining a wide variety of ska and punk elements into a catchy amalgam. A ska-malgam if will. (Nothing like a cheesy ska pun to get things going.)
The album opens with a bouncy punk ode to nights out with “Paint the Night Red” featuring just a small hint of the ska to come. It is definitely more punk than the rest of the album, but it is also a nice acknowledgement of the band’s roots. They return to this ska influenced punk with “Monday Morning” later in the album.
Coming from a band who came to prominence in the nineties ska scene it’s hard to believe there’s no horns until song two, as “Top of the World” is the first of several songs that showcase a two-tone soul, complete with bouncy bass lines and steady rocking brass sections. This up tempo rude sound can also be seen on “Don’t be Afraid” and “Tuff Rudeboy”, while the title track “FunDayMental” showcases a slower vibe. The best of this English influence is the closer “Dust it Off” which features a call and answer between slow driving brass and a bright guitar. It has an infectious groove that will keep your toes tapping.
This album features a couple of highlights, the first being “With You I Can” a love song that has a bright summer day feel to it. It is an optimistic slow stomp with a upbeat brass line. “Cold was my soul but my heart was made of gold, I rolled upon you and it changed my world” they deliver in this playful love song that makes you believe that “With you I can accomplish anything”. The second highlight is “YaYa” a rocksteady reggae jam written about grandkids. A more unique subject matter in a world that overtly tries to avoid the negative thoughts of aging, this song has a warm and happy feeling that almost makes me look forward to seeing my own grandkids.
FunDayMental rounds out with a couple of remakes of some Buck-O-Nine classics “Irish Drinkin’ Song” and “My Town”. The first song takes the original and makes it more of a group sing along as the verses feature layered vocals. This effect takes away the confessional nature of the original but most likely makes it more like the live versions where the crowd provides the supporting layers in the vocals. It is unclear if this remake was really needed, however the updated version of “My Town” is very well done. Opening with a not-so-subtle nod to rocksteady legends Toots and the Maytals, the song does not stray far from the original with a distinctly fun nineties style ska punk feel. However when viewed from the perspective of this album which feels a bit heavier with songs about love and growing old and was recorded by band members playing their parts in different states, it comes across as a wishful throwback to days where listening to music and hanging out with your friends was the most stressful part of the day. “As time ticks by I never stop to ask and never wonder why my soul is sound, I’m in my hometown”
FunDayMental is very close to being a top notch album but it feels like there is a lack of cohesion. The harmonies in the vocals and brass, the gang sing a longs, and in some cases the guitar work, all feel a bit patchwork at times. Ultimately it is a little distracting and the album quality suffers a little, however I am very excited to see these songs played live. Buck-O-Nine definitely know how to write some quality ska tunes, hopefully they can clean up the recording side on their next release.