Slackers do undoubtably great ska

The Slackers, King Konqueror and Dartmouth Sound System nice up the old-time Jamaican rock & roll.

Slackers's saxophonist Dave Hillyard wants to make one thing abundantly clear: Although his band is technically considered ska, they've got nothing to do with No Doubt.

"We play very old music," he says. "We call it Jamaican rock 'n' roll---but we're not faking being Jamaican. We sing about our lives in New York and we put an American accent to it. You're not going to hear metal guitar solos or the pop punk sound of most American ska bands. We're not No Doubt, and we're not The Mighty Mighty Bosstones."

The Slackers have certainly earned the right to distance themselves from their poppier SoCal and Bostonian cousins. The group has existed for nearly 18 years, and despite changing lineups, presidential regimes, marriages and children, their sound remains the same; ska-flavoured bounce, a touch of '60s swing and thoughtful lyrics about about daily life, politics and love.

And in fact, it's love that's brought them to Halifax for the first time since their inception---the band was initially scheduled to come play a wedding. Their show at the Paragon is an bonus for the rest of us and represents one more tour mark for a band that plays nearly 100 shows a year.

"We've played weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, booze cruises," says Hillyard. "As long as we get to play our own stuff, it's a good vibe. We're very lucky that our fans want to bring us out into their lives."

The Slacker's music isn't just about revelry and romance, however; Some of their most popular songs are political. "International War Criminal" echoes the weariness and defiance of bands like The Clash by pointing out the hypocrisy of the Bush regime. The question is, now that Bush is out, do they still have any axes to grind?

"Well, obviously a 'Hey, our president is pretty cool' song doesn't go over as well as an anti-Bush song," Hillyard says. "Songs just come around sometimes. We had songs that were hopeful about things getting better, and now things are better. Sometimes people just want to hear music that makes them feel good."

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