Music » Livewire

Aquabats

With Aggrolites and Whole Wheat Bread. Saturday, June 17, at the Agora Ballroom.

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Huntington Beach, California's Aquabats are of the matching-costume school of late '90s leftover retroids like Los Straitjackets, only these sillies prefer a Devo-gone-ska route that adds a less moldy flair to the "vintage leftovers" set.

Speaking of genres in need of a spitshine, after too many decades of baked hippie defanging of reggae's revolutionary swell, it's even easier to slag off than the "street punk" that Hellcat Records usually releases.

So to say that the Aggrolites' self-titled Hellcat debut is a surprise would be an understatement. Though the sleeve art casts the Aggrolites as bruising L.A. street toughs, the sound is pure late-'60s dancehall-raucous -- always guts-deep with rhythm, topped by a ska-bred singer who comes not from the half-pipes, but whole pints.

Grumpy, bumpy groovers like "Mr. Misery" prove that Jesse Wagner's gruff throat has also consumed the early R&B growlers all those Jamaican cats dubbed. Some of the members have knocked around Southern California's ska scene and played with Jamaican biggie Derrick Morgan. But they've found a sound and are taking it on the road, just in time for summertime cruising.

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