Artist: Squad Five-O
Album: Late News Breaking
Label: Capitol Records
Review by: Phil Nichols
Everyone likes to root for the underdog. Be it politics, sports, movies, or music, people love to see the little guy beat the odds and succeed.
Enter: Squad Five-O, a band whose saga is by all definitions an underdog story:
Exhibit A: The humble beginning. Squad Five-O started as the ska/punk exploit of two twin brothers, Jeff and John Fortson of Savannah, Georgia. The band was signed to the virtually unheard of Bulletproof Records, the former home of such bands as: One-21, Dear Ephesus, and Tenderfoot. They released their first two albums and stayed on the Bulletproof roster until Tooth and Nail picked up the band in 2000.
Exhibit B: The sound. The band took a huge risk with their third album, "Bombs Over Broadway", changing their style from ska/punk upstrokes to glam rock riffage. The release was met with mixed reviews, but the band pressed on to create another album. Their self-titled fourth full length combined the raw energy of the band's legendary live show with the rock and roll sound of their previous disc. The result: arguably one of the best Tooth and Nail releases to date.
Exhibit C: The Big Leagues. This past year, Tooth and Nail sold Squad Five-O's contract to Capitol Records. The band had gone from obscurity to having a home on one of the biggest labels in the country. Capitol put up the band in a practice space for a month to write their debut record. Now just months later, the band has released Late News Breaking, Squad's attempt to break into the big leagues.
Now, whether you are a fan of the ska/punk material or the band's recent offerings, Late News Breaking offers the best of both worlds. The album kicks off with "Always Talking, Never On the Run", an energetic opener showing off the rock and roll aggression of their last album. Squad Five-O has once again done a great job capturing their live energy while maintaining excellent musicianship, and this song is a prime example. The gritty guitar solos, bouncing basslines, and tight drumming will keep your head bobbing long after the album ends.
While much has stayed the same since their last album, a few changes have been made as well. The first notable alteration is the harking back to their ska days with some reggae-influenced tracks. Quite a few of the songs sound similar to London Calling era Clash, while others have an Out Come The Wolves vibe mixed in with the traditional rock sound. Another change for the band is the lyrics. This time around, the whole band contributed to the songwriting process, thus there are some "creative" lines (huggle and a kissle?) and a lot of new topics addressed- namely politics. Squad seems to take the Joe Strummer approach to political lyrics: telling the listener how it is, without telling them how to think. Even if you don't agree with their take on things, their ability to make a relevant song without sounding cliché is commendable.
Late News Breaking is essentially the culmination of Squad Five-O's musical career, combining the reggae of yesteryear with the rock and roll of recent times. The band is tight, the songs are catchy, and the production is well done. The only noticeable flaws are the few scattered filler songs throughout the disc. Luckily, a bad Squad song is still a pretty decent listen. If you are a fan of The Clash, past Squad Five-O albums, or just some good ol' rock n' roll, you will want to check out Late News Breaking.
Don't you just love underdog stories with happy endings?