The Sun Kings: Rub Up In It
Shuck off those winter coats and don your visors and beads -- The Sun Kings' Rub Up In It is coming your way ... from the tropical paradise of Aliquippa. From the get-high call of "Water's Glare" to the acoustic album closer, it's all sun-drenched reggae-funk and beachcomber musings. Which makes it really strange to see them play Moondog's at the Graffiti Rock Challenge, which they did this past frigid February. The local power trio has concocted such an un-Pittsburgh sound, it's hard to decide whether it's just plain incongruous or something fresh.
The most obvious comparison for the Sun Kings is Sublime, and the band's crafted a nearly perfect Sublime replica in the disc's title track, "Rub Up In It." Squeaky-clean reggae guitar drives the chicken-peck rhythm, as the drums double time on the choruses and lay back -- way back -- on the verses. Other momentary similarities are 311 and, I suppose, Police tracks such as "One World."
Throughout, Dan Bubien's guitar work is impressive and tasty, his resonant vocals reminiscent of Sublime's Brad Nowell and Dave Matthews. The rhythm section of Christian "Captain" Caputo (bass) and Tim McCollim (drums) provide just enough cracking rim shots and burbling bottom end to keep the songs (and the Zig-Zags) rolling. And the spacious brittle sound of the recording is perfect for this style.
The Sun Kings probably aren't the most original thing you've ever heard, but it's a polished, fully realized and fun sound. And to persist with such sunny jams in our blustery climes, there has to be a little something to it.
The Sun Kings CD release 10 p.m. Fri., Dec. 1. Hard Rock Café, 230 W. Station Square Drive, Station Square. $7 (includes CD). 412-481-ROCK or www.hardrock.com