The Skints - Live. Breathe. Build. Believe. (Cover Artwork)

The Skints

Live. Breathe. Build. Believe. (2009)

Rebel Alliance

I was following the Skints a little before their debut album when I bought their EP from Do the Dog, which was an excellent slice of ska-punk with lashings of dub and signs of great promise. I was having a good time listening and reading their MySpace blog (yes, really) when they announced there would be a full-length out before Christmas last year. Fast forward to the 25th and I unwrap it.

Let me explain some things about the band. They're a four-piece reggae band from London (you know, in England) started some time in the last 100 years (probably) who play a mix of ska, reggae and dub, with lashings of hardcore, dancehall, hip-hop and grime. There are three singers (who can chant, sing or "spit barz") within the band: Josh, who has a gravelly "Lahndan Taahn" accent and plays guitar; Jamie, who has a smooth croon and plays drums; and Marcia, who can sing sweetly and plays the saxophone, flute, organ, piano and melodica. A melodica, by the way, is a Jamaican keyboard and mouth-operated instrument that fans of dub will be immediately familiar with; someone called the Skints "the Jethro Tull of ska" because of the flute. He obviously hasn't heard enough dub to know that this is a much-used instrument. It'd do him good to listen to, say, Super Ape, but he doesn't deserve it, because he didn't like the Skints. Bollocks to him. Wait, I'm being an arsehole here--because I haven't mentioned Jon, whose tight bass-work holds the album together perfectly. Three cheers for him.

The album itself is a brilliant addition to the post-Capdown and King Prawn ska-punk scene we have here in Blighty. Of the 10 tracks, eight are new, and two are old. The old have been tweaked and made even better than their already-impressive EP versions; the new show a great increase in songwriting ability (mostly bleak, often anthemic) with the same tight musicianship. There is also excellent production on this; Peter Miles has put himself out and the forays into heavy dub (the flute-toting "Change the Channel" and the smooth "Mindless") come out as well as the peppy ska of "Bright Girl" and the urban/ska/hardcore of "Contemplations of the Modern Rudeboy" and "GET ME!". Some songs stand out better than others; some bits are dragged out a little too long or serve little purpose--notably some of the hardcore breakdowns.

But in all, a brilliant album, and I must mention the closer, "Roanna's Song" which is soaked in angst and features Marcia delivering heartfelt lyrics on tragedy and war both rapid-fire over taut ska and dancehall and smooth and softly over dub. B-E-A-Utiful.

Live. Breathe. Build. Believe. was issued Stateside this past July on Bomber Records.