Remember the good old days, circa 1998, when the term “cherry poppin’” was uttered daily by the whole of America without even a hint of irony? And remember how relieving it felt when Top 40 radio stations finally quit playing “Zoot Suit Riot” and the swing revival went on indefinite hiatus? The break is over. After going into hiding for 10 years (presumably as a result of too many swing dancing injuries and too many parents discovering the meaning behind that beloved euphemism), the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are back with their sixth full-length album—we had no idea there were five previous, either.
The album cover of Susquehanna shows a picture of a man, clad in a zoot suit and bound by barbed wire with blood pouring out of the resulting puncture wounds, leading any person with a firm grasp on the concept of a metaphor to believe that the Daddies have, thankfully, let their swingin’ past die.
That’s not entirely wrong. While the album makes an obvious attempt at incorporating a number of different musical styles into their overall sound—flamenco, soca and “greaser” rock, to name a few—the gist of Susquehanna is still the resounding ska-swing that we all loved to hate a decade ago. But what else could it be? When you’re an eight-man band with half as many brass players and a lead singer who goes by the name of MC Large Drink, suffice it to say you’re amply pigeonholed.
The times on the album when the Daddies do make a break from their trademark big-band-of-the-millennium thing, it’s sort of bearable. The Latin bits on “Roseanne” and the Spanish-sung “Arráncate” ain’t half bad, and “Julie Grave”, a.k.a. “Ode to a Cougar”, is a welcome break from the obnoxious ska (and even more obnoxious lyrics) of “White Trash Toodle oo” that directly precedes it. The album certainly isn’t for everyone, or even many, but Susquehanna might suit the needs of a very specific kind of person with a very specific taste in music. It’s the kind of thing you would expect Christian, the ambiguously gay swing king from the movie Clueless, to listen to if he were a real person. Susquehanna is expected to drop June 10 and the band is scheduled to perform July 24 in New York, but be warned: There’s a 95 percent chance they’ll close with “Zoot Suit Riot”.