The Green Album (Dr. Strange)
by Grant Thayer
This release is Skankin’ Pickle‘s fifth (four studio, one live) and last with front man Mike “Bruce Lee” Park who left to focus on The Bruce Lee Band and his new Asian Man Records label. We will miss his unique charm and presence. This solid green CD and vinyl has very little identifying it except for record number and address (kudos to the Beatles’ White Album). Half of The Green Album is fun conceptually – each of the band’s six members picked a song to cover and record, but each person has to sing their choice (Yikes!), as suggested by Dr. Strange (Don’t worry, they are still on Dill Records). As to the other seven of the thirteen tracks, the band decided to make it a full length CD, as a lot of stores will sell a six-song EP at full-length price. If fans are paying for a full album, the Pickles want to make sure they get it. The rest of the tracks are songs that they played back in 1989 and that may have only seen daylight on a demo tape, until they re-recorded them last year. The Green Album gives you a sampling of bands that influenced the musicians and allows them to pay their respect to: Devo, Oingo Boingo, Klark Kent, Bad Manners, Bad Brains and Gorilla Biscuits. An eccentric mixture with only one real ska root, Bad Manners’ “Special Brew.” This seems to flow equally full with respect and love and was a very powerful catalyst early on in developing the Pickle’s direction. This new recipe may even supplant the original in taste. Clean horns, great guitar, and strong bass make your taste buds cry for one more serving. “Gates of Steel” (Devo) turns into a punky fast guitar (Ramones-ish) song, nicely complemented by the subtle horns. For the Bad Brains’ “Pay To Cum,” the liner notes mention how Gerry would “crank this one full volume while speeding down Interstate 80.” This would be a great tune for being chased by the cops. Fast, loud, in your face punk attitude with a garage feel. Oingo Boingo’s creation, “Violent Love,” is resurrected with a crisp ska edge, tight horns, and powerful drums. A nod from the drummer (Chuck) goes to another talented skin pounder, Stewart Copeland, with “Don’t Care,” from his post-Police probation in Klark Kent. A simplistic statement of philosophy rapped up in a quick punk ditty. The last cover, a version of Gorilla Biscuits’ “Start Today,” bounces between the hardcore of the Gorillas and the heaviness of Rancid. As for the rest of the album (the early stuff), most of it hits, but a couple rely on a chord or chorus and rake it in the ground, which is OK, but they should be uncovering “Cup Flipper” rather than burying it. And as is par for the Pickle, look for the hidden tracks at the end. It’s exciting to hear these freshman learning experiences that provide insight into the development of one of America’s best ska bands. Definitely get this. Don’t expect it to have the ultimate Pickle sound, as it is covers and old material, but it’s still essential for today’s ska.
(PO Box 7000-117, Alta Loma, CA 91701)