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Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down

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Album Review

After the exuberance of Dub 56, and its thrill-packed follow- up Hard Band for Dead, those expecting yet another high octane set from the Toasters were in for a surprise. The band had taken this opportunity to downshift a gear, further hone their songwriting, and offer up a new, more mature sound. There's a bit of a muted quality to the entire set, which may be a reflection of the mix and production, but more likely reflects the band's own tight rein. Case in point is "Weekend in L.A." The original, which featured on the band's Skaboom! album, had a sense of wild abandon, the recut here may be light speeds faster, but remains closely corralled. It all feels slightly pinched, like a too-tight corset, or a simmering pot readying to boil over. And that tension is reflected in many of the lyrics — the aggression of "Devil and a .45," the up-yours attitude of the title track, the betrayal in "Everything You Said Has Been a Lie," the abandonment-fueling "Daddy Cry," and bursting out of "Fire in My Soul." But times were tense, and there was a toughening of sound across much of the musical spectrum, emanating from industrial, which was now spilling copiously into the mainstream. Thankfully, the Toasters were much more nuanced than that, and although for most of the set the band musically slice and dice everything in their path, there are at least a few numbers with more easygoing atmospheres. Most notable amongst the former are the dancehall goes grind-metal "Woyay," the steamroller reggae of the title track, the driving blues of "Rhythm and Pain," the coursing, jazz-fired "Big Red," and the slash and smash boogie "Rude, Rude Baby." Of the latter, the highly evocative "Spooky Graveyard" stands alone, its languorous pace and smoky atmosphere far removed from the rest of the set. On a brighter note, though, is the swinging "Bye, Bye Baby," the jazz fueled "Jackie Chan," and breezy "Fire in My Soul." And so, the Toasters have finally evolved into a giant whose world no longer ended, or had even really begun, with Two Tone, where thoughtful songwriting and carefully crafted arrangements now reign supreme. Their younger fans would still skank madly away, but the group's older supporters could take a welcome breather and appreciate the more nuanced sound this top-notch band was now unleashing.


Formed: 1982

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the most important American ska bands, the Toasters did much to popularize the genre on the underground scene in the mid- to late '80s, laying the groundwork for later third wave bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and ska's subsequent explosion in popularity in the mid- to late '90s. British expatriate Rob "Bucket" Hingley formed the Toasters in New York City in 1982 after discovering that the 2 Tone ska he loved had made virtually no inroads into the American music scene. He gathered...
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Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down, The Toasters
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