Union Jack - Tales of Urban Freedom (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Union Jack

Tales of Urban Freedom (2009)


Ska with DJ scratching. Are you still interested? France's Union Jack recreates the Crack Rock Steady sound with a regrettable hip-hop influence on Tales of Urban Freedom. This extra touch shifts the album out of cliché territory and into the "I'm sorry, what?" area. While the playing is certainly passionate and the lyrics heartfelt, at 13 songs and 47 minutes in length, Urban Freedom comes off a little too much like Transplants–jack of all trades, master of suck.

Yet there are glimmers of hope. Introductory track "We've Done It from Scratch" almost justifies Union Jack's style, which it has dubbed "bad ska." I'm not even going to touch that name. "The 13 Ways" comes stuffed with Oi! chants and enthusiasm. But taken as a whole, the repetitive upstrokes and paranoid lyrics get frustrating fast. Songs deal with capitalism and politics, but still often come off as sloganeering.

Still, Urban Freedom is enthusiastically played. It seems at times to be just a second or two away from greatness. But it's still typical ska with typical street punk leanings. The scratching is novel at best. If this were a nü-metal band, I would write if off as conformity and question why a DJ was present. Here I have the opposite problem but the same conclusion: It's unexpected, but still just as useless. Union Jack means well, but that doesn't necessarily make them good.