Album review: Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso, The Curse of the Unsinkable Ship

Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso deliver a sea-flecked sonic adventure full of droll and occasionally absurd narratives in their fresh-pressed full-length, The Curse of the Unsinkable Ship. “Prologue” finds Johnny Cakes frontman Ostrich relating the story of a pirate who sets out to sink his own ship so he can use the insurance money to conquer the world. The calypso-hued grooves of “Johnny Cakes Jump Out” actually launch the 15-track set, which dives in and out of punk, ska, rock, reggae and island music territories, and also touches on barroom twang (“Ode to the Men’s Room Stall”), dark offbeat gypsy music (“Devil’s Threeway”), and swaying dub ("Bee Truck"). The album is textured with steel drums, congas and other hand percussion, brightened by jaunty brass from a section encompassing alt and tenor sax, trombone and tuba, and studded with anything from Muppets clips and answering machine messages to whistling, vocal hoots and rah rah choruses. Ostrich isn’t a singer by any means, but he manages to charm with his crude, nasally talk-sung delivery and off-kilter phrasing, and it works within the confines of the Johnny Cakes aesthetic, even adding an unexpected but not unwelcome note of dissonance to their sound.


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