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COLLECTION - THE LOAFERS
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Although the Loafers meant little in their day, at least in the U.S., at home in Britain they were one in a number of groups - alongside the likes of Maroon Town and the Hot Knives - who were breathing new life into the old 2 Tone sound. In 1988, the group,except original singer Jim Robinson, was still all at school. But that didn't stop them from impressing their elders and recording their CITY SKANKING. Robinson was swiftly replaced by Tony Finn, and a pair of 12" singles duly followed ("Living in a Suitcase" and "The Undertaker"), with CONTAGIOUS, their second album, arriving in the summer of 1989. By the next year, the band had folded, with keyboardist Sean Flowerdew and Finn enlisting as touring members of the Special Beat. The Collection's liner notes, written by Cult labelhead Mark Brenner, enthusiastically tells their tale. What would have been even more helpful is if they included a discography or at least elucidated where each of the tracks came from. Thankfully, the writing credits help put the tracks in some perspective. The set appears to run chronologically, with early tracks taken from their debut album, then it's on to the singles and finally their second full-length. The vocals may change, but the group's sound remained very much the same, a joyous mix of 2 Tone and Brit rock. The Specials may have been the group's main inspiration, but they have a much cheerier sound than their heroes. No matter how hard they rock, virtually all these tracks have a bright and breezy style, and even "Melancholy Sally" will have to lose her frown. It meshes perfectly with the group's upbeat view, where even "Bad News" is met by a vivacious backing and "The Undertaker," freak that he is, is still celebrated. Although not all the songs have the immediate hooks of their elder brethren, the musicianship is surprisingly superb throughout - surprising, because the bandmembers were all in their mid-teens; you'd never know it from Denise Butler's smoking sax solos, drummer Nass Bouzida's superb beats, or Flowerdew's phenomenal playing. The entire band amazes, and while the Loafers themselves dissolved, the members continue to make their mark in contemporary bands. If you can find their records, grab them; in the meantime, this is the perfect introduction to what was one of the hottest bands of the late '80s!""