SGR - Atomic Pony EP
Release Date: 2005
Record Label: Unsigned
How exactly does a band manage to survive the death of a trend? More to the point, how does that same band manage to retain their infectious listening appeal after nearly a decade? New Jersey's SGR have the answers with their latest five song offering, Atomic Pony, a brilliant display of a band with the ability to effortlessly blend elements of ska, reggae, and classic rock. Despite the fact that the running time is rather short, this is a listening experience that won't be slipping from your mind quickly, as five songs are all that's needed to present one of the most well-structured, authentic collections i've heard in quite some time.
The EP opens with "Metuchen", which acts as a brilliant display of what SGR have to offer. A mid-tempo ska song, which not only allows listeners to glimpse one of the brightest horn sections known to man, but as well showcases the signature voice of the bands lead vocalist, Matt Skoufalos. Additionally, in the bridge of this song lies a smooth guitar solo, courtesy of Sean Hur, which clearly emphasizes the classic rock influences amidst the bands array. The second track, "Brown Jackson", picks up immediately where the opener left off, and is highly impressive to say the least. One amazing aspect of this bands musical ability, one which I strongly believe needs to be pronounced, is their flawless capability of smooth transitions from one tempo to another. This, amidst the obvious talent portrayed by each member of the seven veteran lineup, created a variety of moods and vibes, all of which are just as appealing as the next. Next up, we reach "Constellation", which holds a strong traditional ska and reggae influence, and features guest vocals by Freddie "DJ-3D" Weaver. Once again we're blasted with another dose of Skoufalos' soothing, relaxed vocals, which seem to flow near perfectly amidst the rest of the bands upbeat ability. On the other end of the spectrum, the second from last track, "Looking Down", doesn't sound like anything we've experienced from SGR this far. This time we glimpse the bands harder, more powerful edge, which turns out to be what is bordering on the most impressive track yet. "Potter's Field", the last track in line, expectedly proves to be the slower-paced, ballad type we've been waiting for. Here the band mixes more of the aforementioned, strong classic rock influence with a luxurious early-Jamaican reggae vibe. Though not quite as impressive as the EP's earlier gems, this is by no means a song I would suggest one to skip over, at least not until the stunning guitar work midway through the track comes to pass.
Overall, in a time where it seems like the only active ska bands left are the handful of similar third-wave, ska-punks, SGR manage to stray away from the pack, and have released a sincere, genuine EP jam-packed with their own unique flavour. Atomic Pony is not only an impressive gathering of well-practised materal, but moreso a collection of everything ska fans could ask for. If strong, driving vocals, and a handful of exceedingly talented musicians is what you crave, I would suggest picking this one up sooner than later. You will not be dissapointed.