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Album Showcase: Danny Rebel & the KGB – “We’re All Going to Hell”

 

If we’re all being sent to Hell, chances are that Danny Rebel & the KGB will likely provide a soundtrack like no other on the way down. The band’s latest album, We’re All Going to Hell, is unlike anything currently floating in the soundwaves. Its unique blend of ska and reggae is fused with a sultry cocktail lounge sound and tones that harken back to classic rock.

While Montreal might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of ska or reggae, Danny Rebel told Rootfire about the scene’s rich history within the French Quarter of Canada by pointing out acts like The Kingpins, who were part of the two-tone ska revival in the 90s, and artists like Kali & Dub and Jack Potter, who played a significant role in shaping the ska and reggae scene in Montreal and Quebec. 

“The Quebec side of things is a little quiet, but as far as reggae and ska, back in the 90s, The Kingpins were huge, and I don’t know if [The States] know about Jah Cutta, but he was big in the late 80s and early 90s. There’s also Kali & Dub, but I don’t think he ventured into the States.” And although things might be quiet in Montreal, he states there’s still a dedicated following who are always itching for the latest riddim.

Interestingly enough, when asked about some of the influences that shaped the band’s musical identity, Danny credits bands like The Clash and The Slackers with inspiring him to dive deeper into reggae’s roots. He states that this exploration led him to further understand reggae’s profound impact on hip-hop and other genres.

Danny Rebel’s own musical voyage started in 2007 with the formation of Danny Rebel & The KGB. Although the band took a hiatus for personal reasons, they returned with renewed vigor. In fact, Danny explained that the birth of his first daughter was a turning point in his journey, but he couldn’t stop the music from flowing from his brain to the pen and, ultimately, to music.

“Songs were lingering in my head, and I needed to keep doing it,” he explained. For him, music became more than just putting notes together with prose. It became his way of expressing his thoughts, almost like an auditory diary of his thoughts and feelings.

The album’s artwork, painted by Danny Rebel himself and layered with subtext, depicts a fresh marijuana plant contrasted by a wilting marijuana leaf below. Danny told Rootfire that the artwork symbolizes new growth and the band’s journey as musicians. Ironically enough, he shared that it was actually inspired by his band’s rehearsal space, where they noticed a budding ganja plant in the most unlikely of places.

Much like the album’s artwork, the themes throughout the tracks bleed with subtext. In “Spiral Eyes,” Danny explains that the song addresses the distractions and disconnections that come with doom-scrolling and modern technology. The song’s lyrics touch upon how people today seem more focused on their phones than on each other. By adding the use of a whammy effect in the track’s instrumentation, the song’s message shimmers to life as it adds a spiraling sensation to the dizzying track.

A personal favorite off the album, “Comin’ Back” explores the confusion and division during the pandemic through a delicate guitar riff that echoes throughout the track, as the lyrics paint a dystopic picture. Danny explained how the pandemic was difficult for everyone, with the social climate torn between various ideologies and opinions. The song reflects on how these divisions made it challenging to connect with others and how the band navigated those complex emotions. 

“Losing Control” features Lorraine Muller of The Kingpins, and delves into relationships and the risks of moving too quickly when you’re not ready. This theme resonates with the album’s overall message, which tackles the blunt reality of facing truths, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. Danny states, “It’s hard being a human, and sometimes you don’t want to admit the truth, but you gotta face it.” The song is reminiscent of some of the early songs of The Beatles with its use of beautiful vocal harmonies that effortlessly pair with soothing instrumentation.

Jesse Wagner of The Aggrolites also joined in on the track “You Must Learn,”  a track that opens with an inviting bass lick before kicking into a funky blend of synthesizer and guitar. Danny states that working with these musicians was an incredible experience, even though it was mostly done remotely due to geographical constraints. Adding their unique vocal styles to the mix offers another robust layer to the eclectic tones of the album and enriches the band’s unique flavor of ska and reggae.

Overall, We’re All Going to Hell presents an authentic and distinct sound, and with it, Danny Rebel & the KGB are destined to set the world ablaze. It provides an array of deep, conscious songs mixed with jams that get the body moving and exhales a cool, Canadian freshness into the ether.

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Brendan is a writer based out of Tampa Bay, Florida with a true love for the written word, history, and, of course, music. He has been covering the local reggae scene professionally since 2018 when he first began as a contributor to a local Tampa Bay alt weekly. Even before then, Brendan has loved music and writing and dives deep into discographies and tries to discover new music daily. His love for music started when he was young, where his parents would play all different types of music, but it wouldn’t be until later in his teens when he discovered reggae music and this historic legacy it holds.

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