Reviewed by Henry Raby
On this new self-titled album, The Boom have styled their artwork as astronauts. Their other albums reflected cities, concrete buildings and the urban environment. Here, a 1950s sci-fi bright-eyed stare into The Future reflects their step into new music and a new style. No doubt this is a new type of Sonic Boom Six, one without founder member Ben Childs and the addition of Nick and James. Newly signed to Xtra Mile after putting their recent releases out on their own Rebel Alliance Records, they even boast a new logo. The sound is more electronica/drum & bass shift away from the basic punk-ska formula and brass. But that’s not the say SB6 have become an entirely new animal, after all this album’s image reflects their 2nd release Arcade Perfect.
SB6 released three singles over 2011, each one a testament to their flexible with music. Only Kids of the Multiculture has made it onto the album, a song designed specifically for those tight venues and madcap fans throwing themselves around, and the tag of ‘Chavrock’ or ‘Chavcore’ by Youtube trolls belies the importance of the song. The lyrics are simple enough, but I think that’s rather the point. It’s a great rallying point to kick off the song. A musical stance summarises everything SB6 seem to stand for in both musical genres and political creed.
Virus is their more drum & bass radio-friendly pop tune, presumably with high-quality music video they hope to get some air time on major stations. It’s not entirely twee, lyrics about bankers still add that political element to the Boom, but it’s not the most subtle of writing. Emphasises is more on the explosive sound and hook chorus that, yes, is infectious like the virus within the song.
S.O.S. and Gary Got A Gun slows the pace down, keeping that same vibe but allowing the Boom to go deeper into a political gaze of Britain, but without shifting too much into a punk gear, carefully balancing their ideology and sound. Gary Got A Gun about the military stations overseas and the effect back home: “Of course they’re fucking brave if you’re sending them to die”. Importantly, it’s not simply a remake of their older song, Blood For Oil. Lyrically here the Boom are telling stories, honing in on people, families and emotions rather than the typical punk anti-war sneer.
The electronic, drum & bass mash-up sound has always existed with Sonic Boom Six, and they have always been happy to parade this onstage and flaunt their love for hip-hop/rap in front of the usual audience of ska and punk kids. But there’s no doubt this album is their largest offering of their electronic side. Note though it’s still heavy, I reckon you can still mosh to Who Will Survive (thankfully).
Keep On Believing is actually the weakest song in the sense it’s nostalgic and cuts short a clear run of the new D&B-style sounds mid-way through the album. While there’s no ska riffs, it’s got that attempting at forging uplifting ode to rock. It evokes the riffs and style of Set Your Goals, especially with the anthemic, elevating chorus: “All we had was the legends we believed”.
Plenty of bands have released tracks about the riots over the past year, and Flatline sees the band recycle the chorus from The Clash’s London Calling. Reusing existing lyrics and soundbytes at the opening to the track, the song has a heavy rock sound and has this subtle mash-up of mosh riffs and Pendulum-style danceability.
If I were to recommend a ska fan a SB6 album, this would be the last album I’d pick up. In fact, unless you were aware of their roots in the ska-punks scene, SB6 has almost wrestled off the ska tag with this album, far more of a drum & bass release with punky lyrics and general rock vibe. But the worse scenario would be for a band like SB6 to become some sort of [spunge]-esque ska band. Regurgitating the same old album every few years while playing nothing but their early hits. And even if a Sonic Boom Six fan doesn’t quite click with this album, they will still have to nod and admit actually they reference and pay homage to their roots more often than not on this addition to the SB6 canon.
And, actually, when Laila sings “There’s a world much better than this” you see their gaze off into infinity on the cover…maybe…just maybe…we’ll get there with them.