Personnel: The Toasters (vocals); Rob "Bucket" Hingley (vocals, guitar); Lionel Bernard, Sean Dinsmore (vocals); John Dugan (saxophone); Anne Hellandsjo (trombone); Steve Hex (keyboards); John McCain (drums).
Audio Mixer: Joe Jackson.
Liner Note Authors: Steve Shafer; Buck Shafer.
Recording information: Charlie's, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY.
Arranger: The Toasters.
Having bloated up to an 11-piece on their 1987 Skaboom! album, the Toasters had slimmed down to an octet by the time they recorded Thrill Me Up a year later. And while losing two horn players was a shame, the end result was an even tighter, cleaner, and more finely honed sound. And it certainly didn't dampen the group's enthusiasm, creativity, and, in a couple of places, outright chutzpah. That's the only way to describe "Johnny Go Ska," a sensational homage to the Chuck Berry classic, where Bucket's blistering guitar leads actually take second chair to John Dugan's swaggering sax solos, the rocking-ist horn you'll ever hear! But for sheer insouciance, "Rhapsody in Bluebeat" takes the cake, a high octane version of the evocative George Gershwin classic, that careens from cartoon-ish to James Bond-esque through slamming Two Tone. Brilliant! "Frankenska" skanks phantom-like through the opera, while "Ska Killers" brings rockabilly to Jamaica. "Decision at Midnight" just rocks, in '60s pop/rock fashion, albeit to a syncopated beat; which makes its tough take on inner city life-lyrics all the more surprising. "Haitian Frustration," meanwhile, tackles the terminally corrupt elite of that island nation, across a drum'n'bass fueled roots backing, shot through with chorale vocals and sharp brass. But mostly, good times are to be found here, notably on the easygoing title track, flush with harmonies and sweet melody. Equally sparkling is "Go Girl" which shifts from reggae-licious to ska'rific, while "Don't Blame Me" brings a lilting touch of calypso to the party. In fact, the entire album sounds fantastic, a reflection of Joe Jackson's enthusiastic production. The Celluloid label went belly up soon after this sensational set hit the shops, but thankfully the Toasters reissued it on their own Moon Ska label in 1995. The new edition adds a remix of "Haitian Frustration" that was slated for an EP of remixes from the original album; both sides of their debut 7" "Beat Up" single; as well as "No Respect" which the band under the alias "Not Bob Marley" contributed to the 1988 Mashin' Up the Nation! compilation. A fabulous album makes an extremely welcome return. ~ Jo-Ann Greene