Photo: Courtesy of the artist
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Review: Ska octet Umbrella Bed’s LP is free of theatrics

Umbrella Bed's cover art for 'Rotate'
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

The latest effort from two-tone band Umbrella Bed is an interesting juxtaposition: the lyrics are scathing and somewhat dire, but the music that punctuates them is perky and undeniably bright from start to finish. On ‘Rotate’, the Minneapolis octet maintains a frenzied pace without stepping on each other’s toes. The music never feels cluttered or disorganized, which is no easy feat for a group of this size. The bandmates work well together and assemble like puzzle pieces rather than trying to outplay each other.

Staying true to two-tone’s Punk influences, the vocals on ‘Rotate’ are plain and unpolished, free of flourishes or theatrics. Because the delivery is so simple, someone used to more dramatic singing might find the vocals on this a bit boring. But Umbrella Bed’s uncomplicated approach serves the band well – the music has enough layers to sift through as it is and can’t afford the wrinkles of over-the-top crooning.

Lyrically, Umbrella Bed displays thoughtfulness and wit.’Say Your Goodbyes’ is biting social commentary served with a smile: over island-inspired bass lines and syncopated drums, the group takes jabs at mankind’s cold apathy. ‘These Final Days’ sounds like a break-up song, one about a relationship that was doomed from the start and is now arriving at its inevitable end. It seems like sad subject matter, but the lively horns on the song inject a spirited flavour that balances the tone. ‘3-Twenty Seven’ is a full out jam session – there’s no singing on this one, which allows the band to really stretch its legs and play around with the instrumentation. It’s a fun way to end the album and shows off the band’s musical prowess.

Ska is an acquired taste so ‘Rotate’ isn’t a good fit for a casual listener. But for fans of the genre, ‘Rotate’ is a solid offering that’s worth your time.

Words by A Harmony


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