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REVENGE OF THE O.C. SUPERTONES (2004)
Revenge of the O.C. Supertones - Click to view! After taking the road less traveled with Hi-Fi Revival, an oft-frowned-upon departure from their ska roots, Revenge of the O.C. Supertones finds the said band meandering back home. We'd love to see them get there too, since efforts like Chase the Sun and The Supertones Strike Back helped put ska on the map. Unfortunately it appears the Supertones forgot to drop the bread crumbs this time around. Revenge... comes out swinging at first, much like Darth Vader in a fierce lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan, but the majority of the disc is like removing Darth's mask and finding out it was Jar-Jar Binks under there all along.

Songwriting problems are the main fault here. Gone are the days of Matt Morginsky's intelligent, introspective lyrics that actually forced listeners to sit and reflect. In their stead are the generic, dumbed-down messages we've come to expect from most radio-friendly youth group bands. A handful of these tunes are truly worshipful efforts ("Faith of a Child"), but others such as "We Shall Overcome" stifle the flow of intriguing lyrics using bland, obvious statements: "There's a land of the dead called Planet Earth / and a race called man walks dead from birth / and the beast and man both bear the curse / come from the womb but return to dirt." Repetition is also to blame, as several tracks ("I Will Follow," "Shepherd is the Lamb," "Wake Me Up On Time") merely repeat lines from the chorus over and over, tempting listeners to inevitably depress the "skip" button. The most serious offender of these perturbances happens to be "The Kingdom," which plays like a VBS sing-along: "I tell you the truth when I say that the Kingdom is on the way, on the way / I tell you the truth when I say that the Kingdom is here today, here today." While the red-letter words of Jesus our Lord should be exuberant enough, the band fails to perform them with any originality whatsoever. The same goes for "Cult of Cool," which merely recycles the message of Hi-Fi Revival's "Birth of Uncool." However, I do commend the Supertones for their push to route the effects of the "MTV Generation." Hopefully, "Cult of Cool" will influence these younger audiences, but older listeners will likely laugh it off. In fact, Revenge of the O.C. Supertones probably won't even strike a chord with the band's longtime fans, though it may garner some new ones from the tween crowd.

In contrast, instrumentation remains right on target, and the 'Tones prove they still remain a cohesive unit even after a couple of roster changes. While Revenge of the Supertones is far from the return to old-fashioned ska that listeners were promised, the first three tracks will certainly fool them into thinking so. "Wake Me Up On Time" features several brass flourishes throughout, building up with the intensity of Ethan Luck's tight-knit chord work. Reggae-like influences similar to those of "Lift Me Up" from Loud and Clear permeate "Where I Find You," perhaps the best song on the disc. And not all is disappointing on "We Shall Overcome." Aside from the uninspired rap verses, the hardcore flavor of Supertones Strike Back is omnipresent, courtesy of John Wilson's turbulent drumming and Morginsky's flawless flow during the excellently programmed bridge. The remainder of the disc carries the band back into Hi-Fi Revival territory with mixed results. Honorable mentions go out to "Prince of Peace" and "Faith of a Child" for their tranquil, dreamlike melodies and steady flow. However, listeners will want to avoid "Everything's Broken" and "Dream of Two Cities," since they offer few redeeming qualities and are ultimately unmemorable.

There's a large possibility that listeners from 10-13 years of age will pick up this CD and love every minute of it. Unfortunately for faithful Supertones devotees, Revenge of the Supertones ends up more like a rebellion that was crushed before it started. Even Hi-Fi Revival manages to accomplish more than this project, and I actually recommend it over Revenge... if you must choose between one or the other. Lost in the wilderness and headed in the wrong direction, it looks as though this may be the end for the O.C. Supertones.
- Rick Foux
September 2004
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