Reggae band Common Sense has been around the block for quite some time — since 1986, to be exact.
After making music for almost three decades, the Laguna Beach-based band’s still got the energy to jam and record another album, but it doesn’t mean they should.
Common Sense tracked 15 songs for their sixth album, “What’s It All About,” which was self-produced by the band and recorded in the Hurley Studios in Costa Mesa.
“In This Life” opens the album with a simple, laid-back beat that will have you nodding your head. Calling it a love ballad is a bit of a stretch, but it’ll have you grabbing and holding onto your significant other a third of the way into the song.
This track and the songs that follow — “Switchy Switch” and “What’s It All About” — sound like what you’d imagine Common Sense to sound like: catchy surf and reggae tones. But when “Define Love” starts playing, you almost have to ask yourself, “Didn’t I just hear this song?”
“Define Love” is structured almost the same as “Switchy Switch” and nearly has the same tempo. It is also monotonous, with little variation throughout the song. You can randomly skip to any part of the song and you wouldn’t be able to tell if you were listening to the first chorus or the last. At least “Switchy Switch” had an awesome guitar solo.
“Tell Me How Gangster You Are” really shows the band’s age. The song calls out beach kids who have new cars bought by their moms and try to act tough. The two-word line “Say what?” is repeated endlessly in the song, and what that tells me is that they’re getting a little stale.
But Common Sense redeems themselves later in the album with “Feel the Dragon.” The song reminds me of their previous album, “Don’t Look Back,” where they displayed their musical range. It has a bit of a funk/R&B-like; feel to it and isn’t your conventional reggae music.
Probably my favorite song on the CD, “Strange One,” is indeed a strange track. It’s more ska and punk than reggae. It’s really upbeat, with parts of the song reminding me of The Offspring’s track “All I Want.”
A colleague of mine who knows the band’s frontman, Nick Hernandez, told me that the band has been sitting on these songs for a while and has finally had the time to sit down and record them, which can explain a bit of the staleness of some of the songs.
Loyal fans will like this album. It’s more or less the same band they’ve been listening to for the last three decades. But “Don’t Look Back” was more cohesive, and the songs seemed to complement one another. “What’s It All About” feels like it was scrambled together.