There was a time in my life when I would have claimed to “not like ska.” Over the years, however, records like With A Vengeance have (thankfully) helped me get past that. This record is easily the most fun you will have on any given day that you give it a spin.
With this record, Hans Gruber and the Die Hards does what ska-core does best: tackle a wide variety of subject matter with an energy that cannot be ignored, and with a sense of jovial, reckless abandon. Ranging from a scathing critique of the black-and-white absolutism found in social media conflicts on the opening track, to an absolutely gorgeous Frank Sinatra cover, to some very strong feelings about a certain kind of dinosaur, this collection of upstroke-heavy punk rock songs is one that demands to be spun on repeat.
You really could dive in just about anywhere on the album and be pulled right into it, but it’s best enjoyed in one complete sitting. Coming in at right around half an hour, it’s very easy to do so. The songs get right to the point, without any unnecessary extra fluff. However, to say that it’s a simple record would be far from the truth. There are layers and layers of instrumentation and vocal harmonies that make the album an easy-in for the uninitiated, but a very satisfying listen for anyone who knows a thing or two about music production.
The lyrical content oozes with a sometimes playful and often blistering brand of sarcasm. It exemplifies the best elements of the genre by taking serious issues like toxic masculinity (“My Friend Chuck”), the disastrous effects of climate change and our role as musicians in it (“Let’s Drive Everywhere”), and the complex-but-overlooked reality of being homeless and struggling with addiction (“An Old Man Like Me”), and sets them to a beat that’s impossible not to dance to. I’ve often heard modern ska punk described as “heavy lyrics over happy music” and it’s fair to say that With A Vengeance fully lives up to that description. It’s a great record, and I personally recommend that you… pick it up!