Hawaii’s own Iration released their second full-length album, Time Bomb, this week. The band held a special album release show/party at the Roxy this Tuesday to mark the occasion. The event was hosted by Pepper, Iration’s fellow Hawaii-based reggae friends and label mates on Law Records. This article will serve as a review of both the show and the album Time Bomb. (Check out the gallery at the end of this article to see pictures of the show).
The first band I saw at the show was Pacific Dub, a group of young kids who looked like they were fresh out of high school (if not still in high school), and who played a typical but pleasant brand of surf reggae, not unlike the other bands on the bill. They were young, but they showed some promise for the future.
Next up was Zen Robbi, who were great. The band’s fusion of funk, punk, reggae and jazz created a very bouncy and catchy sound which I loved, so I picked up the band’s latest album Heavy Lies the Crown to take the party home with me.
After that, it was time for the main attraction. Pepper’s Yesod Williams presented Iration’s set, as Pepper is obviously proud of their label’s newest and most promising band. The set started with Cookie Jar, one of the band’s most memorable tunes from their Sample This EP. Micah Pueschel’s soothing voice and slick guitar work set to Adam Taylor’s groove-heavy bass licks create quite an engaging sound in concert, accentuated by Cayson Peterson’s keyboard skills. Iration played a few tunes from Time Bomb, including You Don’t Know (which was aided by a vocal performance by the band’s friend Tunji), Time Bomb, Love/Hate, Wait and See, Dream (about their homeland of Hawaii), and my personal highlight of the album, Turn Around. That song in particular has an incredibly infectious rhythm to it, and the synth/keyboard in the background creates a delicious melody that forced me to replay the track about four times after my initial listen. It’s that good.
As for the album itself, Iration has really come into its own as a band with this record. While No Time for Rest was good, some of the songs blended into each other a bit, but this time around the songs are much more independently memorable. Turn Around is the best track on the album, and probably my favorite of Iration’s entire catalog (up there with Falling and I’m With You). Tunji’s verse on You Don’t Know gives the song a great balance of island reggae flavor and hip-hop groove, with vocalists Pueschel and Kai Rediske’s layered, relaxing vocals off-setting Tunji’s aggressive delivery perfectly. It’s another great part of the record.
About halfway through Iration’s set, the curtain went back up and their “special guests” took to the stage, the guests being, of course, Pepper. The boys from Kona Town played a medley of songs off of their debut record Kona Town, including B.O.O.T., Stone Love, and Stormtrooper, after opening their mini-set with a new song called Wake Up. It was a nice treat thrown in the middle of Iration’s set.
I was getting anxious that the band maybe was not going to play Turn Around, but they saved it for right before the encore, which soothed my anxiety. It sounds even better live, making it easily one of my favorite songs of this newer crop of reggae/dub bands.
With Time Bomb, Iration has really focused their attention more on driving guitar chords instead of laid-back reggae rhythms, a change from their previous work. For that reason, the album sounds much more full and fleshed out than their previous work (which wasn’t bad by any means, but wasn’t as well-executed as the new material). All In You is driven by a steady beat and vocals (with lyrics including If you wanna be a star, you gotta shine), all set to two complementary guitar tracks that work together to make the song another shining moment on the album (see what I did there?).
As a fan of bands such as The Expendables, Passafire (who also employ a guitar-driven approach to their new album as well), and Rebelution, I was pleased to find out Iration has gone in that same direction.
With Time Bomb, Iration is poised to reach a broader audience and hopefully reach the level of acclaim as fellow bands of this genre. Being on Pepper’s Law Records should only help the band rise in popularity, since Pepper have been the kings of this genre for a while now. At the Roxy Tuesday night it was apparent that the guys in Pepper are very proud of Iration, and they should be.
One thing that amused me was that Iration took some negative iTunes reviews of Time Bomb, printed them out, and taped the paper on the box office window and the main door to the Roxy, for all to see. The reviews on the sheet were the same type of criticism these bands always get, ones along the lines of “this isn’t real reggae, go listen to Bob Marley blah blah” or whatever. I like how Iration has a sense of humor about this, as their critics are just misguided. Music takes different forms over the years, genres and styles expand. To decry something as not worthwhile because it’s not “authentic” or whatever is just ignorant. If I lived in Hawaii I would probably be in a reggae band too. The atmosphere on the islands is just perfect for creating this kind of music. People who hate on such fun and relaxing music should just shut up and go listen to whatever it is they’re listening to in order to be ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ and leave this stuff for those of us who appreciate it for what it is.
Time Bomb is one of this genre’s best albums thus far, up there with Rebelution’s Bright Side of Life, The Expendables’ self-titled record, and Passafire’s latest Everyone On Everynight. I’m very glad to see these bands growing and maturing, as each record that comes out tends to be even better than the previous one.
Iration is the latest of these bands to follow that trend, and I’m eager to find out to what heights Time Bomb will take them. I hope it takes them even further up the reggae ranks.