Legitimate Business - First World Problems
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: July 15, 2009
It’s summertime, the most appropriate time of the year for the light-hearted and skank-worthy tunes of ska to be blaring around homes, parking lots, and concert venues all over the country. New Jersey band Legitimate Business’ First World Problems, though, is a much more serious record that deals with betrayal, apocalyptic themes, and a healthy serving of angst. So, it isn’t a stereotypical ska record, and it actually has extremely heavy elements of punk and rock, but the beats that it provides are certainly good enough to get anyone moving. Unfortunately, the vocals and harmonies weigh the album down despite the excellent musicianship.
The title track starts the record off well enough with a solid rock opening as palm-muted guitars turn into a fast, fist-pumping riff. The chorus lacks any hooks, though, and Mark Ambrose (vocals/guitar) does not deliver a good vocal performance by any means. His vocals improve, though, with “The Next 23 Years,” a song with a much more uplifting tone and lyrics that include “Stay with me until the sun rises over the ocean / Sing with me until your voices crack from the emotion.” “80 on 80” comes on next and could easily be a good summer anthem for skaters everywhere, which explains why it was featured on a Tony Hawk video game soundtrack. It has fast verses and a catchy chorus that contains gang vocals in the final run through.
After three fast tracks, “Remember When” opens with an acoustic guitar but the transition to fast punk beats happens quickly and seamlessly in this song about the good old days of youth. Ambrose sings of how they were “writing the soundtrack to our lives. We saw the world through bloodshot eyes.” “It’s Not Murder (If You’re Already Dead)” is where the tone of the record begins to shift. It is an angsty tale of wanting to take revenge against an unjust girlfriend that opens with an attention-grabbing guitar riff and catchy verses. The bass shines on “Sneaking Suspicion”, especially in the bridge, but the song simply drags on too long before it ends.
“A New Era” features a memorable riff in the opening but then is mostly lackluster until the final buildup near the end as gang vocals chant “fight!” “Saint of Killers” delves into apocalyptic, religious themes, and it is a very hard-hitting song. The lyrics relate to the anarchy of the end of days and God “falling from His throne.” The ending, though, features extremely poor vocals. “Lost Direction” has another good opening (the band do an excellent job on every single offering of crafting introductions that draw listeners in) and a catchy chorus with better output from Ambrose vocally. “Have a Drink, Baby!” is another lyrically interesting song with a good guitar solo and excellent riffs all around, especially in the verses.
Next in queue is “One Hell of a Ride” which opens with bongos before delineating to listeners just what a bloody, horror carnival would be like. Following “One Hell of a Ride” is “S.O.S.” which is probably the second best song on the record with an extremely infectious chorus. The record’s best offering, though, comes in the last song, “A Bitter Goodbye Song.” It opens acoustically and carries a slight pinch of Dropkick Murphys influence. Ambrose provides his best vocal performance in this song about a so-called friend running away and deserting his band. This track is slower but the melodies are memorable and quite catchy as Ambrose sings things like “Were you so much better? Was I just younger then? Are your new friends successful and will you abandon them?”
First World Problems is a record that can make any musician happy because the men of Legitimate Business are extremely talented in that regard. The vocals and harmonies, though, detract from the musicianship and the record’s replay value. Ambrose does show vocal promise in some songs on the album and it would have been interesting to see a follow-up to this record. However, after this summer of 2010, Legitimate Business will be disbanding and this release will presumably be their last offering. First World Problems is not the best way for a band to go out, but the impressive instrumentals are enough to leave any listener wanting more, which is what any finale should do.