The Slackers International War Criminal

Desperate times produce protest singers out of unlikely places. The Slackers may be more known for their melancholy and hip NY old school ska sound but their recent five-song EP is a militant stand to attention, an angry diatribe against the Bush administration and the right-wing totalitarian hole the U.S. is sinking into. The title International War Criminal is an obvious reference to Bush Jr. and Sr., and the album's artwork makes no bones about depicting George W. and his cronies as Bible-thumping crazies wielding military attack dogs. Musically, IWC is a smooth transition for the listener from the Slackers' normal fodder. While the lyrics are politically aggressive, the grooves are still very loose and danceable. "Propaganda” has a wicked roots dread feel — not surprising as the Slackers always manage to pull out some of the most succulent reggae grooves around. "Keep it Simple,” with its ska-swing and love song metaphor, is a lightweight track with hard-hitting lyrics. Take away the irie riddim section in "Rider” and you're left with a fairly standard blues train song. Put back that riddim though, and the Slackers create a folksy hybrid of Americana and reggae. The title track is the most exciting, a punked-out party ska tune about weapons of mass destruction, misinformation, and petroleum wars — what more could you want on the dance floor? In essence, with IWC the Slackers have stepped into the shoes of the great protest tradition of Jamaican music, and not since Steel Pulse's Earth Crisis or Peter Tosh's Nuclear War has a band made this tradition so much their own. (Thought Squad)