Chalk up another one for Mitch Easter, who co-produced Jump! Jump! Jump! at his world-famous Drive-In Studio. Given his background, one might expect power pop, but North Carolina’s P-Boys instead deliver hot’n’sweaty horn-inflected ska-beat rock. The sextet’s gangbusting, headlong enthusiasm recalls the early Specials (without the accents or trebly sound) but songs like “Tina Goes to the Supermarket” undercut any seriousness that might have been intended. Easter acquits himself admirably on this atypical production fare, making a record likely to pump your speakers free of their cabinets.
Produced by Don Dixon, the four songs on Rangledoon (a 12-inch with entirely blank grooves on one side) are even more ambitious and better realized than the first album. By toning things down stylistically, the group reveals more conceptual depth, applying its brassy assets with intuitive imagination. “Where the Cowboys Went,” for instance, makes effective use of spoken narration, while the brisk “Policemen (In My Neighbor’s Yard),” complete with gunshots, executes tricky musical turns on a dime. Excellent.
Besides the entirety of Rangledoon and four of the six tracks from Jump! Jump! Jump!, the cassette-only Hell Tape has an early four-song demo (including alternate versions of the two first-EP omissions) and three tracks recorded for (but unused on) the band’s subsequent album. Despite the varied studio circumstances and personnel, Hell is an entirely enjoyable collection of pep and pop.
Krandlebanum Monumentus contains a second rendition of “Tina” as well as such offbeat weirditties as “Terrible Brain,” “Trombonehead” and “A Chew and a Swallow.” Three horns still lead the kinetic attack, but the Pressuremen no longer hie to bluebeat, choosing a straighter rock direction (a bit like Oingo Boingo) that proves their tightness but leaves less of a lasting impression.