What’s A Skindred?
Well, lots of things. Born out of the ashes of the much-loved Dub War, who are now back as well, Skindred has been mashing it up since 1998 and dropping albums since 2002.
And mashing up is what they do.
When you ask what a Skindred is, you’ll be mentioning:
Yes. They just don’t see barriers. They just don’t see the strictures of the business. They’ve just been on Breakfast TV in the UK. They’ve done it on their own terms. Perhaps it’s coming from Newport that does it, not the hothouse of London, the jamming together of bands with a desperation to be the first to cut a deal, perhaps.
Benji Webbe, their irrepressible frontman, is the focus, and guitarist Mikey Demus is a real factor too, but this sound would not be such a fantastic brew without the multi-musicality of Dan Pugsley on Bass and Arya Goggins laying that beat down.
Last time out, Skindred divided fans. Even more than usual. Five years ago, ‘Big Tings’, the cover of a cat shouting in a studded leather jacket, was just a little too accessible for some, the choruses even brushed Pop. Benji told Louder Sound that he too had some issues with it;
‘You know what it is, we got into a lot of scraps with that record. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I do like the songs, don’t get me wrong, but when I think about what the band was going through, it was pretty gruelling. Still, 20 years with the same line-up – we’re doing something right.’
Good heavens! I thought it was audacious and brilliantly done. But the stakes are a little higher now, I suppose – how to balance chart aspirations with toughness?
Like this. Smile is a triumph. Not that it sounds triumphant, but it resembles a band who are having a fantastic time, surprised by the music they can make and delighted to show us – that really shines through.
As Angry Metal Guy says;
‘Skindred’s best moments are a balance of riffs, tasteful experimentation, and Webbe’s vocals.’
And so, there is some old skool drum machine beating bounce to ‘Gimme That Boom’, but really this album sound is well exampled by ‘Set Fazers‘.
It melds Benji’s spiky, rough house vocals along with a really approachable, almost floating chorus. They push the boat out further, into deep water, with the chorus of ‘Black Stars’ almost Pop, very chart and brilliantly done – if you like that sound, but to balance it with sleek, propulsive Rock.
As well as that, there’s a funky breakdown in ‘State Of The Union’ and a sweet Ska shuffle among the horn stabs of ‘Addicted’. And two love songs. Told you Skindred were audacious. Firstly the title track, which lilts along with Reggae, followed by an even clearly song of love, clue is in the title, ‘Appointed Love’ has no irony, it shows a sweet face to you and hopes you won’t reject it.
Dave Simpson in TheGuardian sums it up well;
‘One minute it’s riffs and political rage, the next it’s summery reggae. Thanks to their craft – and frontman Benji Webbe’s joie de vivre – the band’s barrier-breaking album is a treat.’
Where Next For Skindred?
I don’t really think they care. They haven’t chosen Pop brilliance because they want radio success, they do it because they can and they have no fear. We all need a Smile in these tough times. Benji has mentioned that Skindred always writes songs about unity and love; this combo of music thrown together to come up even closer does exactly that; this album will keep a grin in place for weeks.