HB Surround Sound – Back to Reality EP
2.) Hate & Love
3.) You Again
5.) 5 Days in London
The Pier Album Rating:
Release Date: May 3rd, 2011
It’s been since the 2006 release of Mad World that HB Surround Sound has put an album out. Prior to that, they had 2 releases that included a self-titled along with the Kill All The Critics album. After taking a few years off, HB Surround Sound has returned with a fresh new sound with what the group describes as Super tight SKA/REGGAE/ROCK in the vain of Operation Ivy, Rancid, The Clash and The Specials. True RudeBoys 4 Life; HB Surround Sound will make you dance & that was their aim with their 2011 Back To Reality EP release.
Summer’s finally arrived up in NYC and I only want to do two things: get hammered and dance like a madman to loud, unrelenting ska-punk. Someone must have sent HB Surround Sound a note on my behalf because luck would just have it that tomorrow they’ll be releasing their new EP, Back To Reality, for FREE and distributing it over The Pier as a FREE download. I’ve spent the past week bouncing around lower Manhattan with this EP blasting on my headphones, and, I can’t lie, it’s done as much to help brighten my mood as the gorgeous weather. Combining stellar pop sensibility, car careening off a cliff urgency, and deep grooves that could have been ripped straight from One Step Beyond…, Back To Reality is sure to fire a burning arrow straight through the heart of any ska-punk devotee.
The EP opens on strong footing with the life-shot-in-the-gutter themed Breakdown. Brazen and unabashedly drenched in booze and sweat, the song opens with a wall-of-sound ska-punk attack. Upbeat guitars and walking bass dance around vocalist Jake Bushnell’s desparate lyrics, bemoaning the banality and drudgery of modern life. As Jake Bushnell warns of his imminent psychotic explosion, the rest of the band sounds as if they themselves are ready to self-destruct (in a good way) with exploding distorted guitars and organ rage over a runaway-train rhythm section.
Following Breakdown comes Hate and Love, which maintains a ridiculously grooving verse, however the song makes particular use of that half-time downbeat punk thing that was so big in the hardcore scene a few years ago (maybe it still is?). Anyway, the verses are catchy and bouncy, a strongsuit for any hard-working SoCal ska act, but that half-time groove following each chorus just doesn’t stand out as anything particularly moving to me. But then again, that particular rhythm never can quite push me to dance, even if this time it has the privelege of being sandwiched between some easy skankin’ verses.
Thankfully, HB don’t come back to that rhythm, and instead bust into full-on two-tone mode for You Again, a gorgeous love song, whose two-tone rhythm and liquid-smooth guitar leads have already made this track one of my personal favorites of 2011. It’s romantic and vibey, but not in a sappy way, the perfect track for smooth skanking late at night in a dimly lit apartment with a special someone. Ok, that actually does sound pretty sappy. Whatever.
Jeapordy probably contains one of my favorite lines of 2011 thus far. I never meant to be a rich man/All I want is you…I find myself repeating that in my head all the time, and given the current economic situation of the country, I wouldn’t doubt that quite a few of my peers share the sentiment. We were raised to believe we’d all be millionaires and movie stars, but now most of us are just hoping to find a little happiness instead.
The EP closes out with 5 Days In London. As the horns swell and the keys chime, HBSS rips into the track like a band of ska outlaws, guns blazing and feet skankin’. “London Calling in the back of my mind!” shouts Jake Bushnell, as the boys let loose on the EP’s finale, dropping for a few moments into a hazy, dubby breakdown before snaking through the underground and catapulting back into the grimy ska stratosphere.
Seriously, people, the band is giving this album away for free. Do yourself a favor and download it. If you have even just a drop of adrenaline in you, this album will balloon that drop into an ocean, and, before you know it, Back To Reality will become the new soundtrack to your wildest funky reggae parties. Get drunk, get stoned, go wild! Party like tomorrow isn’t coming because this album is going to make you want to throw-down the shackles of wage-slavery and yell I’m a living, breathing, shit-kicking son of a bitch with a beating heart and a hungry soul, and I WILL turn this world upside down and back by the time I’m finished!
Written & Reviewed by: Chris Castro
[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]