Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24: Goldfinger, "Hang-Ups"

Artist: Goldfinger
Album: Hang-Ups
Year: 1997
Label: Universal

In the 1990's, there was a brief SKA revival thanks to a handful of California based bands. While No Doubt went for the more relaxed feel, and Rancid went the more punk feel, Goldfinger took both styles with equal measure. Their sophomore effort, 1997's Hang-Ups, ranges from Cali-thrash to a power-punk skank-fest (that's skank as in the SKA dance movement).

One of the most difficult things to do with punk-based bands is to capture the energy of their live performances in a studio setting. On Hang-Ups, the band solves this issue by letting frontman John Feldmann handle production duties. Over the past twenty years, Feldmann has become one of the most sought-after punk producers and has been behind hits for artists ranging from Mest to Ashley Simpson, to Hillary Duff. He works his magic on Hang-Ups and each song explodes off the album and makes you want to groove, mosh, or simply get up offa' that thing!

As a band, Goldfinger is a musical powerhouse. Guitarist Charlie Paulson (who is now back with the band after years away) is easily one of the finest punk axemen ever. He relentlessly attacks each song and is also able to give the more laid back tunes the perfect musical "bounce" for a swinging SKA song. Bassist Simon Williams (whom Feldmann met when they were working at the same shoe store) brings an incomparable combination of funk and punk. Feldmann himself is one of the most prolific singers to ever grab a microphone. The energy and emotion he brings in all of his lyrics are absolutely top notch. Perhaps the most...interesting member of the band is drummer Darrin Pfeiffer. Not only can he play drums like a bat out of hell, but he has made a name for himself with a number of hilarious stage antics. If you've never experienced them live, next time they're in your town, it's worth going if nothing less, than for "Twinkie."

One of the aspects that makes Hang-Ups rise above the rest is the variety in the songs and sounds found on the album. The horns (provided by pals Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, and Fishbone legend Angelo Moore) provide a brilliant contrast to the guitar work and help to keep the SKA feel intact. Feldmann also has a gift for writing beautifully self-revealing lyrics and he shines with songs like "If Only" and "Disorder." Even when Feldmann is singing these sometimes somber songs, the songs remain somehow upbeat and keep a smile on your face.

To sum it up, Goldfinger's Hang-Ups is a damn fun record. Perhaps it's over-exposure to the California sun, but each song on the record is pure joy to hear time and time again. Taking the fundamentals of bands like Social Distortion and miking them with a strong love of SKA, Goldfinger now stand tall as the "elder statesmen" of the pop-punk/power-punk movement. To this day, they still put on one of the most high energy and spirited live shows on the planet. If you're looking for a vibrant, rocking album to brighten up your collection, Hang-Ups is the record to grab.

Standout tracks: "Superman," "Question," and "Chris Cayton."

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