Not enough people in the world appreciate the state of Maryland. I mean, think about it, in such a small radius we’ve got large cities, great beaches, and glorious mountains. Honestly, this little state has anything you could really want. We are highly underrated. We’ve got delicious blue crabs, plus the greatest seasoning known to man, Old Bay! Seriously, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
One thing we’ve got over here in the diverse state of Maryland is a large population of modern reggae bands; bands like Ballyhoo, Joint Operation, Pasadena (RIP), and the focus of our writing today, Bumpin’ Uglies. Many a bunch calls this genre “white boy reggae”. Of course this stems from the fact that many of these bands are made up by members who are predominantly white. While this “genre” of sorts got its start in the 90’s from bands like Sublime, it was the Uglies who coined that particular term on their 2012 record, “Go Folk Yourself”. While I dislike the term for the sheer fact that people become disinterested in great musicians as soon as they hear it, it seems the boys have taken the line and grown with it.
Bumpin’ Uglies got their start about a decade ago in Annapolis, Maryland. They consist of vocalist/guitarist Brandon Hardesty, bassist Dave Wolf, drummer TJ Haslett, and the newly acquired keyboardist Chad Wright. They’ve been dropping “banger after banger”, as the kids say, and with the release of their fourth LP, “Beast from the East” I must say we’ve got another classic on our hands.
Beast from the East starts off with a bang with the first track, “Could’ve Been Great”. That opening guitar lick lets you know exactly what you’re getting: an ironically pissed off reggae track with soul. Hardesty croons about the importance of persevering after a failed relationship. Basically, listen I understand you were down for this…but that’s your loss, this could’ve been fantastic! The track culminates with guitars and keyboards dueling as harmonic vocals fill the air. This is how you start off an album!
From there the boys obviously wanted me to cry. “City by the Bay” is the second track of the album and it’s Bumpin’ Uglies tribute to their hometown of Naptown. No matter where we go, we’ll always have a home. I’ve got a city by the bay. Growing up very close to the Annapolis area, this track truly hit home for me; Glen Burnie born and Eastern Shore living.
We go from tears to “skanks”. Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m of course referring to the dancing you’ll be doing once the third track hits, “Crazy”. This track kicks in with those ska/fast paced rocksteady vibes. You’ll be dancing all around the room so clear the damn area!
Now listen, what was this album missing? A hip hop epic! Don’t worry, the boys have got you covered and they calling in all of their friends. Radio play be damned, this is the party anthem of the year. “Hard Liquor” features guest vocals from members of Ballyhoo, Sun-Dried Vibes, and Oogee Wawa. This is the track you’re gonna want to bump at those summer parties! Also great while cruising down the highway with the windows down.
Those vibes continue with the dispensary tribute featuring Gary Dread. “Budtender”. This is the Bumpin’ Uglies updated version of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It”, just a bit faster. While Hardesty does name drop a few of his favorite strands, the track focuses on the government’s uninformed laws on a certain plant and the progress we’ve made as a country on this topic.
The next few tracks bring in those chill vibes heavy. “The Waiting Game” is a tribute to those days where you just don’t quite want to get out of bed. “All In Stride” featuring the incredible Passafire is the bands thoughts on finding the good in everything. Bad luck will always follow us, but it also helps you find the great in all things. We get a bit political when the track “Officer O’Herily”. The band touches both sides of the corrupt law enforcement argument. While the first verse talks crooked, over powered cops, the second verse reminds us that we’re all pawns to a higher power’s game. Deep stuff that may fly over your head on the first listen. Especially with the heavy grooves being laid down by drummer Haslett.
There are few things I love more than a great bass line. Bassist Dave Wolf provides just that as “Radio” featuring the guys from Tropidelic kicks in. While it’s cliche to drop a track discussing your dislike of mainstream radio, Hardesty makes it seem so damn new. He’s passionate about what he writes about. When these two bands come together you can hear the honesty in their music. “I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it for my sanity”.
The last three songs on the album are a trio of heartfelt reggae tracks. “Show Must Go On” features another great bassline and lyrics about the bands hardships over the years. They’re playing for their lives out on the road, and they won’t take no for an answer. Anger strikes again on the political anthem, “Apathy”. This is the longest track of the album, and damn is it a good one. Hardesty drops knowledge about the world’s past and the current political climate. TJ Haslett’s drums play the perfect backdrop throughout the entire track. The rest of the band kicks in to what I can only describe as a “Type O Negative” type bridge towards the end of the track. It took me by surprise but it was a welcomed one! The album ends with an optimistic acoustic track appropriately titled “Optimism in F#”. It’s all going to be fine, and with this album, I can say the same thing to this band.
The reggae genre can be quite tiresome, specifically modern reggae. I can’t tell you the amount of bands I’ve gotten into only to discover that they sound like they’ve been playing the same song for an hour. Bumpin’ Uglies are not that band. While they stay relatively in the same realm, every track tells a different story, and the cohesion involved with this project is incredible. Every track belongs and easily flows to the next. You can truly tell that these guys had a blast making this record, and that always makes for a fantastic album. You’d be out of your mind not to add this album to your collection.
Obsessed with all things horror, video games, comics and vinyl, Dylan has been surrounded by all things geek culture since birth. Along with writing for Icon Versus Icon he’s also the co-host for the year long Christmas podcast, “Christmas 365”.
“No wimps. No False Metal.”