Maladroit Mafia - Directions
Release Date: May 2nd, 2006
Record Label: Not Again Records
If there's a sole wish that any music listener keeps buried deep inside their mind and heart alike, it's the prayer for advancement of the careers they assist, and the improvement upon those artists' seasoned material. In the case of West Columbia, South Carolina's five-piece ska, pop-punk ensemble, the Maladroit Mafia, and their first full-length release, Directions, listener's aspirations are serviced and former abitions are satisfied. To be quite honest, the sheer development the horn-laden, pop-punk outfit showcases is downright extraordinary, and while the output may not stand as overly unimaginable, may these musician's dreams be filled with a sense of intimate pride.
The group's sophomore effort, Directions, which was released on May 2nd, 2006 via Not Again records as the follow-up to last year's self-titled EP, not only presents a stronger faculty for memorable songwriting, but exhibits tremendous headway en route to what is bound to materialize into a fairly lucrative career. The material found on Directions, although never exceedingly dissimilar from the group's earlier work, indicates these five young musician's foaming hunger for fruition, though their organic approach is exhilarating, and their antics, though mildly youthful, are a much-needed breath of fresh air. While there's certainly a colossal, barren strectch of land literally aching and begging for further improvement, turning a blind eye to such visible progress would be immoral.
"Panic! at the Parlor", the first offering on Directions, and bound with a title clearly ridiculing Panic! at the Disco, a recent, media-eaten success story, discloses itself with a gritty, pop-punk riff encumbered by the band's two-piece brass section, before sailing smoothly into a neatly-arranged, upbeat-driven, ska-oriented verse. Unfortunately, only an insufficient distance into the release's running time, listeners encounter the group's first complication, lead vocalist Brandon Rogers. While Rogers' voice isn't necessarily appalling, his tone is often far too displeasing, creating a brimming challenge for wide-eyed audiences. Fortunately, however, Rogers brandishes enough raw energy to save the release from being written-off entirely. On "Lunchroom", although awkwardly placed amongst the remainder of the album's material, bassist Tyler Morris and drummer Jason Rikard lead listeners rhythmically into a short-winded, swaying instrumental, laden with an attractive horn arrangement courtesy of trombonist Sean Barry and the aforementioned Rogers. On "Escape From Columbia", the record's fifth offering, the Maladroit Mafia unexpectedly launch the audience through a series of twists and turns as they forcefully roam through a fusion of hot-tempered punk-rock and jazz-stimulated ska music bristling with bright installments from the band's horn section.
Further into Directions, listeners discover "Skankin' In The Pit", a bouncy tune on which Rogers spits out light-hearted, happy-go-lucky lyrics ("We're going to dance all night at the House of Blues"), and while his vocals still suffer, the track alone is undoubtedly the most supreme composition Directions has to offer. The song's bridge features the inclusion of an admirable steel drum arrangement, which does nothing but complement the already dazzling musicianship. On "Our Town", a pop-structured, punk-rock song laced with a fulgent harmonization from the act's brass section, although typical in comparison to New Found Glory, MxPx, and a handful of other major acts, is fairly enjoyable in it's own right. On "Just The Beginning", which is coincidentally the album's concluding ditty (though Rogers may repetitively announce that this is "just the beginning," I assure you we have reached the end), Rogers guides his audience through the release's token acoustic ballad, which I've come to find artists struggle to not include, before surgining into a heavy-hearted, punk-rock measure, and a flawless gateway to release any listener's last bit of energy.
Still, as appealing as the Maladroit Mafia's exterior layer may appear, let us not forget that they certainly require further development alike any other independent act, which may or not may not explain the group's free wheeling condition. As a matter of fact, to be brutally honest, on the majority of Directions' material (specifically "Feel The Same", "Bashment", and "Playground Brawl"), the group fails to offer much in terms of paraphernalia deserving of critical acclaim, and while to the untrained listener they may have earned themselves the title of an enjoyable, local act, their output falls considerably short of anything overly honourable. However, with a few small corrections, and a tune-up in the production and vocal units, the Maladroit Mafia are well on their way to success, so breathe yourself a sigh of relief.
Thus, without further adieu, the bottom line is rather simple: the Maladroit Mafia boast with undeniable strokes of talent, ability, and creative style, and while Directions may not earn them the spotlight in a handful of major publications, be warned that the underground critics have taken notice. Directions offers twelve unique, heartfelt, ska-tinged, pop-punk compositions, and for an initial full-length release, it's crystal clear that the only direction left for these young musicians is up.