For most of the last 20 years or so, the potential future of the Long Beach Dub Allstars seemed so grim and ill-fated that the announcement of this new album possessed a certain charm, I’d say, for sheer underdog status. Now, this is not to detract from the band’s former output, of which at least on Wonders of the World (2001) I found a decent scattering of catchy, continually playable tracks. It’s been widely known, though, that Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson, both formerly of Sublime and LBDA, had left for Sublime with Rome. So it seemed a foregone conclusion that a fork had been stuck in this group, and, indeed, they currently feature no members from Sublime’s ultimate core of Bradley Nowell, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh.
But Echo Mountain High sounds anything but haphazard and unprofessional — I’m actually really impressed by the recording, mix and even instrumentation, which furnishes some cool sax riffing from Tim Wu and Brad Croes, as well as a pretty copious dolloping of synth, all over this LP. It doesn’t sound like a band that’s missing key members, in other words.
The lead single is the frenetic, worldly-leaning “Preacha”; but my favorite cut on the album is probably “Up on the Land”; an eclectic, supremely mournful and substantial love song for Southern California’s lost pristine, well-cleaned shorelines. It’s funny to think about but, if you take away Sublime and these guys, this region of the country really doesn’t have an extensive allegiance with reggae, although, of course, Sublime has been so important and prominent that whatever reggae-less days there might have been seem like ancient history at best. Regardless, the band take a full foray into surf rock, here, with that style’s loose-sounding, warbly guitar sound taking the sonic fore, and the way they blend this facet with the funky reggae mix makes for a singular listen within this band’s catalogue and an important step forward.
Over and over, too, I’m impressed by the emotional authenticity of this band, which is still fronted by Opie Ortiz, their original vocalist, and flanked by programmer/general rhythm guru Marshall Goodman, who was actually the original drummer in Sublime, and, briefly, oddly even shared this band with Sublime’s next drummer Bud Gaugh. Give him credit for his ability to defer matters to Gaugh, an ostensible superstar, and now, in the latter’s absence, really seem to take them helm and execute a reggae-rock album, that, consistently, is energetic, genuine and rewarding.
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