The Orange County, California-based group Cellphish began with humble beginnings as a trio (Jesse Padilla on bass and vocals, Brian Majeska on guitar, with drummer “Coddie” Soto), playing their hearts out in the Southwest. Through their vibrant performances and generosity in passing out demo CDs, they’ve gained themselves a strong fanbase throughout California and Arizona. Yet, while their style have always been upbeat and easily accessible to their listeners, the band has recently gone through an evolution which will no doubt lift them from status as local heroes with a modest following to full-blowng rock stars: the addition of a horn section.
One should not make the mistake, however, of thinking that because they’ve got a horn section that Cellphish should be pigeonholed as a Ska band – or should be grouped in any specific genre for that matter. They’ve taken the already solid and well-loved sound of their days as a trio, and have forged it with the talents of newcomers Ivan Ibarra (saxaphone) and Rich Iwason (trumpet) into a wholly unique entity that’s hard to describe, other than to say it rocks and hearing it makes you want to move. It’s also not easy to describe exactly how perfectly the addition of horns is to their music. One would have to listen to earlier recordings of their music (which can actually be downloaded on their website) and then listen comparatively to Suicide Kings – they band’s first full length album, produced and funded by the band themselves. It’s simply a perfect fit.
The first evidence of this comes immediately when all five pieces explode into the CD’s first track, “Last Time”. The band’s three core elements are still highly prominant and as rocking as ever, though the new horn section brings a richer, more full sound. It all combines into an experience that hits you like a brick wall and does not let up. The rest of Suicide Kings is marked throughout by Coddie Soto’s kinetic drumming as a foundation to the furious guitar and bass playing, and vocals of Brian Majeska and Jesse Padilla respectively, and it’s all glazed over and thickened by the warm and vivid playing of Ivan Ibarra and Rich Iwason’s horns.
The album in it’s entirety dodges labeling and generalizations. It shifts from hard-hitting to fairly easy listening, bouncing from hang-out anthems like “Party Song” to more personal tracks dealing with emotions tied to losing friends like “Mi Amiga”, and rounds itself off with “Ghon Away” which perfectly illustrates the feeling one gets when a huge burden is suddenly lifted off their shoulders – be that the euphoria of suddenly finding yourself no longer involved in an unhappy relationship, or otherwise. It’s a perfectly upbeat song which really brings full circle the journey Cellphish takes it’s listeners on.
There’s very little, if any, suffering from shortcomings in Suicide Kings. It’s a well-balanced album that leaves you with a positive feeling and a smile on your face. In short, it’s just fun to listen to. If you’re looking for something new, yet strangely familiar and welcoming, do not hesitate to pick up this disc. Or better yet, take the very first opportunity to see Cellphish perform live.
-D.T. Carel / SPSMag.com