Reggae has long been needed for its
social criticism, political undertones and activist spirit; allowing
fans to get lost in soft, rhythmical thrusts of happy guitars and
“fuck the system” lyrics. No genre of music is more for the
people, for the common working man, a sound that entices rebellion. Amongst the ridiculousness of mainstream spectacle artists and in a
sea of indie music pretension, female-led, soulful reggae act, Extra
Classic is nothing less than completely refreshing, both for the
hardcore reggae lover and those simply looking to brush up on their
skanking alone in their kitchen.
Extra Classic is made up of six
California natives, mostly from San Francisco, making somewhat
vintage, somewhat exciting and consistently provocative reggae
sounds. Extra Classic's first full length album, Your White Like
White Lightening, Your Light Like a Laser Beam -- out this
September 27th on Manimal Vinyl -- feature the soft, pleasing female
vocals of Adrianne A. Verhoeven and perfectly accompanied by reggae
beats straight from Jamaica in the 60's. The album boasts an overall
vibe that is nostalgic, ridiculously relaxing and designed to make
you dance slow and sing loud.
While Extra Classic is not infused with politics, the sound makes it feel as though it is. In the track "You Can't Bring Me Down", Verhoeven sings the uplifting chorus with such soul and sincerity that no matter who the “you” in the song refers to (it could be the government or it could be your ex), the listener can easily fill in the blanks, making the "you" both significant and relatable. On first listen, Extra Classic's first single "Congo Rebel" is infectious. It is a song that seemingly gets better with each listen, exuding classic reggae elements and a sense of musical bravery on their end, unafraid to be straight up reggae and own it. It's easy to forget a genre of music, the perfection of its sound and melody, and "Congo Rebel" can remind you what's good about reggae, what's necessary about strong, catchy repetition and what's awesome about a new female voice that can go away for long, instrumental interludes and then return with subtle sweetness.
Fans of ska music and old school reggae
will find themselves drawn to Extra Classic, both because it's
reminiscent of these sounds and because it has a political edge
without the mental strife of actual politics. And in all honesty, while there are plenty of injustices to sing
about these days, it's almost too much to handle when looking mostly
for escape through art and entertainment. Who needs politics when
you can listen to the sort of lo-fi, mostly instrumental gem "Electric
Stars" and feel somehow like
you're doing your part to change the world.
Classic does reggae casually, with sincerity and catchy repetition. While a track like "Give Me Your Love"
slides dangerously close to an adult contemporary sound, the stand
out track, "Angel Eyes"
saves the down-tempo sounds of Extra Classic with Verhoeven's buttery
smooth voice and pretty lyrics, instructing the listener to “count
your sunny hours.” Leaving the relaxation behind and focusing on
solid reggae with a danceable twist, "Metal Tiger" is
entirely infectious. Thanks to Terrorbird Media and Manimal Vinyl,
Epitonic is exclusively offering up a dub version of "Metal
Tiger", a track that's a perfect summation of the band's sound.
Upon an initial listen, Extra Classic can sound like ska you grew out of, a more put together version of the Dance Hall Crashers. Yet after really indulging in the album, you'll find it speaks deep. It matures from the first track to the last, and it accomplishes the difficult task of making reggae new again; fun, cool, personally political and equipped with tracks for the common man, the angry rebel and the lovesick ska fan.