Skankboys 6

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The Hippos’ bouncy ska-punk tunes are all flavorful and sweet, and as hard to resist as store-bought cookies. Yes, they’re formulaic (this tune sounds like the Bosstones, that tune like Oingo Boingo), but the traditional ska-song recipe doesn’t lend itself to much experimentation, and what it may lack in originality is made up for with gobs of sincerity, energy and honest-to-boots enthusiasm.

Straight from beautiful downtown Burbank, the Hippos – Ariel, Louis, Danny, James, Rich and Kyle – combine a hearty horn section with punk-power guitar and drums, melodic harmonies and an analog keyboard to spice up the cool factor. Twelve original songs (plus a cover of the Bacharach-David/Naked Eyes classic, "Always Something There to Remind Me") mix these ingredients in different proportions – each comes out crisp, crunchy and cooked to perfection.

The group was picked up by Interscope late last year and played the Warped tour this summer, so this well-produced second album is being released to a few predictable cries of "sellout" from its devoted fan base – rude boys with 5-pound key chains and dreamy-eyed girls in plaid skirts who pronounce bassist James "a hottie."

In fact, it’s not too far a stretch to see the connection between the Hippos’ shtick and that of boy-wonder-groups like the Backstreet Boys: Gimmicky matching outfits; songs about sad, misunderstood boys who only want a girl that’s true; hairdos and musical arrangements crafted with equal care … but the Hippos do it all with a skank and a smirk.

Most of ’em aren’t pretty enough for Tiger Beat anyway.

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