The Johnstones - What the Rosstek?!
Release Date: 2004
Record Label: Unsigned
It really does make me wonder what kind of drugs people must be on when I hear the ever-so-popular proclamation "ska is dead!". Either these people have not yet stumbled upon bands like The Johnstones, or they're just plain stupid. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, The Johnstones play a brand of high-energy ska-punk that is damn near irresistable. With their debut debut, six track EP What the Rosstek?!, these five young men manage to jam-pack enough undoubtedly impressive hooks, infectious melodies, and sing-alongs to last any listener a lifetime. Okay, so maybe these six tracks won't keep your attention for eternity, but I guarantee you won't be doing anything but smiling, dancing, and shouting along when you pop this disc in your stereo.
The EP opens with "Can't Tell", a jaunty, ska-punk anthem, which easily summarizes The Johnstones sound as a whole. The band seems to have a formula they prefer to stick to, which is most notably made up of speed, hooks, gang vocals, and uncomparable energy. Lead vocalists Jarek Hardy (guitar, trumpet) and Ryan Long's (drums) flair is highly-enjoyable and appealing, and gives the disc a vibe of a house party soundtrack. "Hackey Sack", the second and most impressive track, is more of The Johnstones signature formula and a handful of other enjoyable ingredients. The songs chorus, which repeatedly screams "I want my hackey sack!", is almost alarming, and truly displays the raw energy the band consistently packs into their song. Additionally, this song alone shows off the pure, undeniable skill of the five members, including guitar, bass, and trombone solos. Even if the bands sound isn't to your liking, any listener should at least be able to find humor in Long's hilarious commentary.
Skipping ahead to the EP's fourth track "Normal Guy", trombonist Julian Warme adds a flavourful organ into the mix. The song itself, though nothing groundbreaking or remarkable, is pleasing to the ears and definitely a worthwhile listen. The bands horn section, comprising of trumpeters Jarek Hardy and Rene Gillizeau, and trombonist Julian Warme, is extremely powerful and quite unique in their harmonies. The brass is bright and up front, which is undoubtedly a favoured quality in third-wave ska-punk, and The Johnstones do not aim to dissapoint. The EP's sixth track, "Do the Ska", more or less procraims the combined members love for the genre itself. It's easy noticable that The Johnstones love the songs they write and the music they create. Bassist Brent Marks lines are consistently powerful and driving, creating a nice backbone for the bands signature sound.
Although i'm still shouting out gems like "I want my hackey sack!" and "Do the ska!", i'll take a minute to reflect on the package as a whole. What the Rosstek?!, the debut EP from The Johnstones, is a flavourful blend of ska and punk, and quite an impressive one at that. Despite the raw recording quality, there's enough to love in the songs themselves to push this release to the front of your collection. What the Rosstek?! is an EP that hits the nail on head, strikes the target on the dartboard, and succeeds in living up to any other lame expressions one may come up with. Ska-punk has never sounded so good.