Album: Ghost Town Steppas – !FROM​.​.​.​DA​.​.​.​FRONTLINES!

In 2022, Ghost Town Steppas quietly released a new album, From… Da… Frontlines, but due to the pandemic and other reasons, they were not able to tour or properly promote the album. They decided that the album wasn’t at the quality they wanted, so they remastered it, and re-released it, this time they plan on properly promoting the album and playing live shows in support of the album. I am incredibly thankful for this decision, because I had never heard of the band and completely missed the first release, but over the last month since it’s re-release, I’ve seen several people talking about it and I finally got around to listening, and it’s a damn good album.

I review a lot of ska music, and my favorite thing about the modern ska scene is the diversity in sound and influences. Bands seem to be far less constrained today than in previous eras of ska, where each “wave” or “scene” had its own unique sounds that ran consistently through all the bands. The bands today might have completely different influences, and an outside listener might not even recognize them as the same genre. None of that holds true for the Ghost Town Steppas. This is the purest two tone ska album to be released in nearly 40 years. If you slipped a copy of the vinyl into a bin with Madness, The Selector, and The Specials, nobody would think twice about it belonging there nor would anyone question if you said that they regularly played together. 

The album begins with Steppas Tonight, and it immediately summons the dark eerie synths reminiscent of The Specials “Ghost Town” that gives the album its name, but has a bit more step and reggae in the rhythm making it feel a little more danceable. The song features haunting backing vocals in the chorus underneath a repeated “it’s da ghetto”- mirroring the themes of Ghost Town.

The rest of the album is less directly influenced by specific songs or bands, and shows off a wide range of talented musicians. While most of the lyrics are about love and the pursuit of love and attention, the vocals are outstanding. Everything from the lead, the harmonies, the vocal counterclaim in “Lost In Love” and the gang vocals and support are all terrific. The keys, synth, and organ rarely take the front and center, but always fit perfectly to set the mood and carry that two tone and reggae beat that shapes everything else, and gets you up on your feet.

“No Way Out” starts with a simple cymbal rhythm and keys, and the smooth voice leads the track and I can’t imagine this song playing with lights on. This song feels like it needs a dark room and candles, and the saxophone does its job at maintaining the mood, and the vocal doubling with harmonies adds to the ambiance. 

“Beatriz” is a lot more upbeat, crushing that two tone rhythm and has some of the catchier hooks on the album with a melody that is first introduced at the start of the song on a glockenspiel and carried through most of the song before the track has a short break, comes in with just drums leading the rhythm before the keys come in setting mood, and the guitar and horns slowly bridge back the original melody. It’s just a well written song that hooks nicely and makes you dance to that island music.

As the album goes on, it feels like it grows more and more into it’s own personality. “Time Warp” has a fun keyboard rhythm, and the “Time Warp” repeating over the music is fun (although the first two times it played my ears heard “TACO”- so apparently I was listening while hungry). The deep baritone vocals of “Finally” are some of the best on the entire album, and the guitar really feels like it’s going to carry the heavy load from the intro before the piano takes over, and the saxophone sets the mood.

My favorite track is probably “Love Me” because it’s the fastest paced song on the album, and it just gets me moving a few steps faster. It also has a nice little David Bowie reference that would makes me smile because it fits in as well today as it would have if it was if the song was written at the height of the two tone movement.

The rest of the album continues a lot of the same themes, and always feels fresh. Sharing vocal duties across the band really helps ensure that every song feels fresh, and, honestly, it only gets better as you listen through the song, so it still feels fresh at the end of the album despite being nearly 45 minutes long. This is probably the best two tone album I’ve heard in decades, and if you’re a fan of steppin’ this is definitely a must listen. I am so glad they decided to remaster it and are now touring to promote the album. Check out their socials and go see them if they come to a town near you. 

Written by Gimpleg