The Skints – Part and Parcel (Album)
Reviewed by Henry Raby
The Skints were always the ‘youngblood’ band of the ska-punk scene, taken on tour by The King Blues and Random Hand and being warmly welcomed by their fans. They’ve also been scooped up by You Me At Six, Gogol Bordello and Less Than Jake as support acts. Now The Skints have a specific plan of attack. This album feels purposely designed to appeal to a wider range of fans. The Skints know their fanbase has expanded beyond punks, ska fans and political activists. With radio play as well as plenty of large scale festivals coming up, The Skints have written and released an album for the summer, for outdoor events, for audiences seeking pleasant pop tunes. That’s not to say they have lost their political sensibilities.
SunnySunny lets Jamie take over vocals and is by far The Skints’ most beautifully traditional Trojan-inspired reggae tune to date, listening to it is like taking a dip in a hot bath and being drowned in sweetness. Rubadub is a song that The Skints might not have been able to pen and record a few years back, it’s got a pinned down ska vibe. Far more controlled and sharper than a hazy blaze of ska-punk.
Up Against The Wall Riddim is the perfect example of The Skints’ song-writing skills, each vocalist adds something different to this track, Jamie’s Jamaica-infused crooning, Marcia’s songbird-style loveliness and Josh’s East London biting rapping. However, in my opinion, check out the single version they recorded for a faster punkier pace.
Rat-A-Tat shows off The Skints’ direction. Gone are the blitz of rage, the ravings about unemployment, racism and war. The Skints have grown up and got sexy. “I know that you are no good for me” croons Marcia behind the low pulsing bass. The Skints have captured a coy and secretive atmosphere on this song, not necessarily dark but a tiny bit twisted.
Lay You Down and Ring Ring are fun and light little tunes, one for the girls, one for the boys. Marcia heads up Ring Ring, a song which puts Lily Allen to shame when it comes to joyous female-fronted upbeat ska songs. This song is sweetly amorous. Lay You Down is the opposite; led by Josh it has the laddish Madness/Ordinary Boys swagger.
Whilst The King Blues took their politics to a very direct and specific “We are angry and we are fighting back” stance in their lyrics, the Skints think domestically in terms of politics. Up Against The Wall Riddem and Live East Die Young both hone in on individual oppression wrapped up within tales of youthful London life.
Whilst their debut album could be compared to Capdown, King Prawn, Sonic Boom Six etc., this album has more roots in ’60s Trojan reggae, Lover’s Rock, Gregory Isaacs, Alton Ellis etc. Far more straight love songs, but also hints of cleverly intertwined politics, darker undertones and stylised bouncy summery reggae for bouncy summery festivals.
To summarise the album, take this quote: “I may like reggae but I know where I’m from, Babylon born inna East London.” It’s sweet reggae written in dangerous London. Delicious reggae for devious times.