Record Review 

Constantly-touring NYC-based ska band the Slackers took their rude-boy slack asses overseas last year. Nothing unusual about that, except that one stop was a two-night stand at Ernesto's, a Mexican restaurant in Sittard, Holland. "Dig it and dig it well," implores the emcee at the tiny club as the band take the stage (actually just a corner of the room).

From the sound of things, the rowdy crowd certainly enjoyed the show, cheering drunkenly as the band launches into "Sooner or Later." The performance is lively enough and a good-time vibe is certainly present. But the muddy recording just makes this seem like a friend's bootleg cassette, brought home to a fellow music fan who wasn't lucky enough to be there.

Supposedly this material was culled from over five hours of available material, but the career-spanning set -- including the best moments from Red Light, The Question and their best album to date, Better Late Than Never -- never seems to quite capture the fun and excitement of the Slackers in person.

"I Still Love You," presented here at the half-way point of the collection, is the peak of the set, with an extended sax solo and an intense delivery. Another long-winded breath-fest blows up in the middle of "Work Song," a reedy skank that shows the Slackers are no slouches when it comes to old-school ska technique.

Ultimately, though, even "The Fried Chicken Song," a sure-fire crowd pleaser, isn't crispy enough to satisfy. Left hungry, all that's left to do is have another frozen margarita and get out the studio albums. For a band that warmly welcomes bootleggers, the Slackers surely must have enough material for a better live album in their vaults somewhere. Until then, go see the show, take your tape recorder, have a good time and file this CD under "S" for slack.

The Slackers play the Echo Lounge, Tues., Nov. 7.

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