The Ghost Town Steppas step out in a big way with their impressive, jazz-infused, reggae/ska debut album, “!FROM DA FRONTLiNES!”
Clearly influenced by the 2 Tone movement and its architects — The English Beat, The Specials, and The Selecter, to name a few — The Ghost Town Steppas carve out their own masterful niche as a “4th-wave, 2 Tone” band. These reggae/ska underpinnings are further augmented with echoes of The Police and The Clash, particularly in the bass lines of songs like “She Light Mi Fire.”
Lead singer and guitarist Christian Simeon (aka “Skabz”) provides soulful, heartfelt vocals that range from a rich baritone, to a Sting-like 1st tenor, all the way to luxurious falsetto notes. The talents of saxphonist “Muggz” are prominently on display, as his soulful saxophone interludes thread their way through each and every track, often in a call and response interplay between the sax and the vocals. “Monkee” provides the aforementioned bass lines, while “Cowboy” (drums) and “Pauley” (keyboards) round out this supremely talented band.
The opening track of the album, “Steppas Tonight,” gives a great big nod to the Specials’ classic track, “Ghost Town.” This methodical, groovy opening track sets the stage for even bigger things to come.
“This Girl is Mine” is an upbeat, straight up reggae/ska track with a resplendent organ-synth line. “Lost in Love” follows an oft-repeated (and quite successful) formula on the album, starting with simple piano notes as the song slowly intensifies, adding instruments to each verse. “No Way Out” follows this irresistible formula as well, starting with a simple piano intro, adding beautiful vocals in accompaniment, and then slowly adding in the drums, a catchy guitar riff, and more of that gorgeous saxophone work.
“Kiss Me, Kiss Me” is an absolute gem, its smooth saxophone solo kicking off the song and weaving its way throughout the track. “Beatriz” give us a xylophone intro and provides some of the best lyrics on the album: “You’re my moon and stars/you’re my history/I want to study all you are.”
The beginning of “Love Me” harkens back to the heavy-bass intro of “Maneater” by Hall and Oates and also gives a nod to David Bowie with the lyric, “Major Tom is in control.” “Time Warp” is an upbeat, energetic, catchy track with several reminders of The English Beat’s “Too Nice to Talk To.”
The pièce de ré·sis·tance is the album’s eighth track, “Finally.” The guitar intro of “Finally” immediately summons The English Beat’s glorious “Save it For Later,” while the chorus harkens back to General Public’s “Tenderness.” The rich baritone vocals are purposeful, convincing, and, quite simply, beautiful. Lyrics like “Too many times I tried to find you/ too many drinks and too many hearts torn apart” are relatable and haunting.
Every track of “!FROM DA FRONTLiNES!” is an enjoyable journey through the history of reggae, ska, and pop, with electrifying infusions of jazz and soul. The Ghost Town Steppas have stepped impressively into the realm of the 2 Tone movement, and having firmly planted their feet, invite us take one of the most enjoyable strolls of our lives.