Throughout the mid-'90s ska revival, Hepcat
should have felt right at home, but ironically the multi-racial Los Angeles-based band couldn't have sounded more at odds with then-current ska trends. Instead of offering a fashionable ska-punk hybrid, Hepcat went way back to the '60s for its inspiration, expertly emulating ska's first wave by bridging R&B and jazz with ska's trademark upbeat. Scientific
, the band's second album, doesn't break from the classic ska formula, which is what makes the disc so great. Hepcat's dogged dedication to old-school ska sets it apart from the competition, with the outfit embracing lengthy horn solos and soulful vocals where other groups offer shouting and distorted guitars. Vocalists Alex Desert
and Greg Lee
would even sound right at home on any Studio One session, crooning, cooing, and toasting where necessary. Scientific
doesn't always stick strictly to ska, but it stays in the vicinity: Hepcat also explores ska's antecedents rocksteady, reggae, and dub, with songs such as "Keep On" slowing things down to a less danceable pace. But despite the slight style juggling, the emphasis remains mostly on traditional Jamaican music -- pure, simple, musical, and joyous, with a touch of politics, even if a potentially galvanizing track titled "Anita Hill" is perversely presented as an instrumental.