Review: The Expanders – Self Titled

Review: The Expanders – Self Titled

The Expanders – Self Titled
1.) Evilous Number
2.) Something Wrong
3.) Moving Along
4.) Follow It
5.) Careful
6.) Think Ruler
7.) Merciless Deeds
8.) Turtle Racing
9.) Race is Run
10.) Gone Away
11.) Down In The Valley
12.) Snow Beast

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: March 22nd, 2011
Record Label: Broken Complex Records

Album Background:
Formed in LA in 2003, The Expanders have been kicking around the scene for nearly a decade, while members also contribute to local ska acts such as The Lions and Hepcat. The group’s classic Studio One sound has earned praise and attention from many reggae legends including Alton Ellis, The Maytones, The Wailing Souls, and many more who have drafted the group as the backup band for their California performances. The Expanders is the group’s debut album.

Album Review:

“I’ve always had this belief that if you produce something beautiful, and it’s packaged beautifully and has had some love and attention invested in it, then somebody will want it. Unfortunately, the record industry is the opposite of that. It’s all about “How cheaply can we put this together?” And “How efficiently can we knock ’em out to make the biggest buck?”
– J. Spaceman
“I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”
Vice Magazine, May 2008

The above quote comes from the introduction to J. Spaceman’s article on Missippi Records, a Portland based record label devoted to releasing reissues and compilations of old, obscure, and unbelievably beautiful music. Ranging from Delta blues to East Asian psych-rock, the label’s unrivaled love and dedication to their craft has garnered them something of a cult status amongst record collectors and fringe-music enthusiasts. It is my hope that the same may one day be said of The Expanders and their self-titled debut.

The band began recording their debut LP in 2006, but the final product isn’t being released until tomorrow (March 22nd, 2011). Why spend 5 years recording an album? To make it really good, that’s why. The Expanders is a spirited collection of classic tracks that captures the heart and soul of 1970’s Kingston Rocksteady in contemporary Los Angeles. Packed with socio-religious themes, archive-wandering production, lush three-part harmonies, and thoughtful songwriting, the album plays beautifully as a Tarantino-like homage to classic Kingston sounds. Tracks flow into each other gracefully, coherently melding disparate ruminations on romance, righteousness, and politics into a single congruent slice of classic reggae music.

Love and dedication are the two most important ingredients in any endeavour, be it recording an album or planting a garden. This project stemmed from the members’ desire to record an album steeped deep in the roots of rocksteady music. Such a process called them not only to study the form deeply, but also ensure that the technology and engineering of the album were in step with the ways of yore. So the band chose to work exclusively with Sergio Rios at Killion Studios in Los Angeles, to be certain the classic vibes would make it to wax intact.

The process was long, thanks to both the bandmembers’ and Rios’s heavy touring schedules (Rios plays guitar for L.A. funk outfit Orgone), but the results are well-worth the wait. The expansive process also helped to assure the group that not only was every song tightly performed, but also tightly composed, leaving no note unexamined, no lyric unprobed, and no rhythm unnatural. J Bonner’s production (and totally awesome album art) tied up the loose ends, lending the album its smoky, unflinching, no-nonsense-this-is-straight-up-reggae-music sound.

Music is a labor of love. Most people don’t make much money off it nowadays, especially in the reggae scene. But in some ways, that can be something of a boon for fans like you and I. Without financial pressures or expectations, the only thing that really matters is the music and proudly presenting it to the people who may come to love it as much as the band who crafted it. The Expanders’s self-titled debut is an impressive introduction to the group, an exciting debut overall from a band whose dedication to roots music should carve them a fair niche in the American reggae landscape.

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]