Admittedly, it’s been a really long time since I thought about Save Ferris. It was back when I burned their cover of “Come on Eileen” to a mix CD to play on my Discman, if that stresses how long it’s been. It’s been a while since most of the original members of Save Ferris thought about Save Ferris, too: the band had been on hiatus since 2003 when lead singer Monique Powell started using the name again with a new lineup in 2013, inciting a legal battle. Well, the name and the brand-new line-up is all hers now, so she’s releasing a new crowdfunded EP, Checkered Past, on February 10th. The five tracks on the EP bring back a lot of memories.
Checkered Past picks up where ska in the early 2000s left off; this album could have been released in 2003. “Anything” and “Do I Even Like You?” capture the fun ska-pop-punk sound, while “New Sound” goes slow dancehall. “Golden Silence” is angry, “Goodbye Brother” is a sad but upbeat ode to late relatives. It’s basically everything a ska fan needed in the late 90’s and early ‘00s. Some of themes are a little older now, like the lovey lyrics to “Anything” include that “my cat thinks that you are the shit.” Your cat’s approval is the adult equivalent of butterflies in your stomach when it comes to judging a new relationship, right? “Do I Even Like You?” covers a dying a relationship, noting that they haven’t had sex in a year and wonders if they’re just people who sleep near each other. #grownupproblems Powell’s powerful vocals get to shine (and kick some butt) on “Golden Silence,” which has lyrics that are basically everyone’s inner monologue when they want someone to shut up.
The dancehall track, “New Sound,” features vocals from The Specials’ Neville Staples. Despite lyrical threats like “we’re gonna burn this one down to the ground,” this song is a very slow, contained burn that is having trouble spreading from the wastepaper basket. If this song represented an actual dance hall, it would be the most melancholy dance hall you’ve ever seen. Picture the shuffling teens of The Simpsons’ Hullabalooza. Though the overall feeling of the album is fun, some of the songs taken individually miss the mark. “Goodbye Brother,” like “New Sound,” is another one that stands out for being slower than the rest of the EP and for losing listener’s interest. They’re not terrible songs, they’re just not exciting. Save Ferris seems to be at their best when they stick to the fast, classic ska-pop-punk, as they did with the other three tracks.
Speaking of “classic,” this album isn’t all that original. It has many similarities to The Specials and No Doubt and most ska releases that came out 15-20 years ago. “Goodbye Brother” sounds especially like The Specials’ “A Message to You Rudy.” The nostalgia factor is high (remember belts made of seatbelts, plastic beaded bracelets, and checkerboard patterns?! I can’t stop remembering them now.) If this had been released in 2001, I would have been all over it. It sounds dated now, but for fans of ska and pop-punk, it’s still fun. The horns will bring you right back in time to when you could still skank without worrying about pulling a muscle.