THE PLANET SMASHERS
Too Much Information
I’m late to The Planet Smashers party. I mean, I was always aware of the band; they just never really landed on my radar. I might have first heard The Planet Smasher during my “If it isn’t from Moon Ska, it’s not ska” phase of my life, so perhaps that’s why I never gave them a fair shot. I don’t know. Now, before you come after my checkered Vans let me say that I’ve seen the error of my ways. I’ve fully embraced The Planet Smashers for what they are: a fantastic ska band.
My revelation didn’t come on its own. It had help in the form of Dave Ries. Dave is part ska Jedi/part ska pusher. I have discovered, and subsequently purchased, more ska music because of Dave. He introduced me to ska and has been the champion for the genre for as long as I’ve known him. So when Too Much Information was announced, it seemed only fitting to have Dave write the review. So without further ado, I give you Dave Ries with his review of Too Much Information:
As I’m writing this review, I’m listening to this album for the 4th time. I’ve had it in my possession for 2 nights. Am I listening to it this much because I want to make sure that I have an accurate grasp of the lyrical content and instrumentation? NO! I’m listening to it repeatedly because it’s fantastic and it makes me dance. The reader should know that I’m a big guy, and my fast dancing days ended about 15 years ago. This album MAKES ME DANCE.
Let’s start with a brief introduction for those unfamiliar with the group. The Planet Smashers are a ska band from Montreal, QC, Canada (insert unwanted “eh” reference here). They formed in the early ’90s and released their 1st full length album, the self-titled The Planet Smashers, in 1995. The lineup has transformed over their 25+ year career, but they’ve always stayed loyal to their good time ska sound. Too Much Information is their 10th full length album and one of their strongest.
I Can’t Stop was the first single and video that was released as a teaser, prior to the album being released. The video, much like the song, is a frantic punch to the face of energy. Have you ever been so obsessed with someone that it drives you to the edge of madness? Yeah, this song is your brain exploding.
The title track kicks things off with a horn section hook that leads into the repeated call out of Too Much Information. It reminds me of a Don’t Stand So Close To Me-era Police song but with stronger upbeats, organ, and horns. The Smashers take a lighthearted stab at social media with lyrics including “Yeah, we’re friends. And that’s great. But must we share everything when you do it?” I’ll admit…I started posting a little less on Facebook after the message hit.
The album contains a fair share of relationship songs that cover both humorous (Hookie) and true to life (Break My Neck [A Love Song]) events. In 2016, Matt Collyer (lead vocals and guitar) broke his neck in four places after a show. This is their first album since that happened and they released a limited edition flexi-single of this song that appears to be pressed on lab film with an X-Ray of Matt Collyer’s broken neck. Which just goes to show: If you can take something horrible, overcome it, and then use it to inspire a fun and creative piece, you have the ingredients for a good ska song.
Ear Worm is about fruitlessly trying to write a hit song that gets heavy radio play and sticks in someone’s ear as they walk around all day. Well, it’s a shame that these songs might not get worldwide radio play, but songs like Brain Freeze (a generally silly song about eating frozen treats too fast) will get stuck in your head and have you singing “Oh My. Oh My. Oh My Oh My Oh My.” You’ll get strange looks from people like your nine-year-old daughter. You know, until you play the song for them and they realize what you were doing and happily join in.
You might be saying, “Ska? The songs all kind of sound the same, right?” First off, WRONG! Second, this album has a healthy dose of variety. Aim High sounds like a background song for a “failed attempts at romance” montage in a summer blockbuster. Good Vibes is a clap-along experimental song with a wicked baritone sax solo. Runaway is a much needed cool down track that ends the album.
Recently, I was lucky enough to see The Planet Smashers perform live in Chicago. The last time I saw them was in 2004, and I was amazed that they still had the same energy on stage that they did 15 years ago…when I used to dance. Too Much Information brings that same energy to a living room, car stereo, or even morning train commute. Highly recommended by this ska nerd, and suggested listening for all. Buy this album. Or at least listen to it on your preferred streaming service. But you should buy it.
Featured image by: Jen Arnold