You probably know The Hooters best for their '80s new wave/power pop hits like "And We Danced" and "All You Zombies," or for two of the core members backing Cyndi Lauper on her 1983 debut album She's So Unusual, but before the fame, they actually were a ska band who'd made a name for themselves playing local clubs in Philly, and they had a demo with a cover of The Skatalites' "Man In The Street" that was a favorite amongst local DJs. (That cover was eventually included on the 2001 CD reissue of their 1983 debut album Amore.) This part of their story was overlooked for years, but it's become more widely known in recent times thanks to Marc Wasserman's book Ska Boom! An American Ska & Reggae Oral History and the band's appearance on the In Defense of Ska podcast. The Hooters themselves have also decided to revisit their ska roots with a new album, Rocking & Swing, their first new release since their 2010 Five by Five EP and first full-length since 2007's Time Stand Still (which was their first new album since going on hiatus in 1995 and reuniting in 2001). It's a full-on ska/reggae/rock album--their first time making an entire album in this style--and some of the tracks even come directly from demos the band made in the early '80s. The album description reads:
Rocking & Swing is a throwback to The Hooters’ early 80s roots with their unique blend of ska, reggae and rock. It is an upbeat, party record with 8 new tracks (plus a bonus live track on the CD, recorded at The Keswick Theatre in November 2022).
The album features its first single, “Why Won’t You Call Me Back,” as well as several new takes on previously released recordings. A few of the songs may also sound familiar to the band’s first fans as they were originally played live back in the early 80s club scene where the group got its start. The addition of a three-piece horn section, aptly named ‘Men In The Street’ (after the Skatalites’ classic track) adds another dimension of Roots Rock Hooterization.
“We’ve been talking about this kind of project for years. But it just sort of happened last winter, organically and quickly, always a good sign," explains co-founder and keyboardist Rob Hyman. "After we had played some new material with the horns at the Keswick Theatre last fall, it was finally the right time and place for us to revisit the feel of those pivotal gigs and vintage sounds.”
In fact, some of the new album’s tracks were directly transferred from 4-track PortaStudio cassette demos from the 80s into ProTools, constructing the 2023 band around these vintage elements. The result is a bold musical leap into the future with a loving nod to the past!
The whole album is out today via Hooters Music. Give it a listen: