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Friday, April 18, 2014

Max and the Invaders: Runnin’ on Fumes (MaxTone Records)

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Long-lived Milwaukee ska proponents The Invaders have lengthened their name to allay confusion with a similarly monikered Wisconsin British Invasion cover band. But the addendum to their handle gives occasion for Max and the Invaders to expand aesthetic horizons with appropriations of surf/spy/hot-rod rock, various facets of reggae, calypso and sub-Saharan African pop. Adding violin and flute contributes to these Invaders’ distinction among their skanking stylistic kin.

As song lengths approach the five-minute mark, the group’s welcome skirts the periphery of burnout, but there are usually enough vocal and instrumental elements going on to keep one’s ears perked. Closing the album with a radical reinterpretation of fusion jazzman Chuck Mangione’s biggest easy listening hit shows the good-humored chutzpah and keen ear for remakes often marking the best of Max & Co.’s ska forebears. Whether the group’s chosen genre ever sees another burst of trendiness, their ability to incorporate related sounds should keep them a favorite among open-minded diehards.