“New York Berlin” b/w “Tell Them No” (12” one-sided picture disc single)
(Pirates Press Records)
I confess that, while the two songs which comprise the new Slackers single are good, solid cuts, I do not understand why this single has been pressed the way it has. First, both “New York Berlin” and “Tell Them No” are perfectly average songs in length – one is almost three and a half minutes long and the other is just over three minutes – so each song could very easily bow to the convention of occupying opposite sides of a seven-inch instead of putting both together on the same side, leaving the flip- to feature a UV printed image (which also happens to appear on the front cover card stock which comes with the single) and nothing else. Granted, while the B-side of the single features a very nice graphic, I am confident that something else could have been done with it; like maybe putting more music on it, because the single’s cover features the same graphic that the B-side of the single does. All I’m saying is that something more interesting could have been done here. It’s weird too because setting this single up the way it is runs the very real peril that attention could be taken away from the songs that appear – which would be a shame. “New York Berlin” is a particularly noteworthy cut, as it combines all the things which make a great Slackers song. From note one, singer/keyboardist Vic Ruggiero appears right up front and dead center in the mix, and the rest of the band is locked in tight to a classic ska rhythm which is set to a relaxed, pocket-dwelling beat. As soon as it starts, the song is easy to relax with as the band reminisces about drinking in the park in the “good old days” (given that there’s reference to “amends” later in the song, one has to wonder if it’s not a cute reference to someone being in an “Anonymous” program) and being, “one step ahead of the hooligans” or “one step ahead of the man,” but there is no final “lesson” in it; the song is all about looking back – nothing else – so is solid but doesn’t leave the feeling that it should be the song which helps to shape a single. In a perfect world, “New York Berlin” would just be an album cut – not a focus.
The second song on the single, “Tell Them No,” is better. Moving a little slower still than “New York Berlin,” “Tell Them No” glistens with reverb affixed particularly to the drum kit for a little extra sparkle there, and the song stands out still further thanks to the fact that trombonist Glen Pine steals the mic and takes a turn at lead vocals. Pine’s beefier, deeper-intoned vocal, combined with the song’s uniformly fuzzy production gives a sense of age to “Tell Them No” and makes for a pretty great experience in its own right. Better still, “Tell Them No” effectively leaves listeners more ready to go out in hopes of finding more of the band’s music than its predecessor did.
But is that one-two play really enough to make the single good? Well, the easiest way to phrase a reply to that is to say this 12” single does exactly what it’s supposed to do: get interested parties looking and/or hopeful for more Slackers music. It definitely does that – this critic can definitely say that he hopes the two songs on this single appear again on The Slackers’ next full-length album. [Bill Adams]
The Slackers’ “New York Berlin” b/w “Tell Them No” 12” single is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.