Monday, 20 January 2014

Skindred - Fight the Power

So while the backlog of articles continues to accrue (including a follow up to “Self Medication Blues” and “State of Innovation”) along comes a new Skindred album…

Skindred’s new LP Kill the Power is the album that should put them in a higher sales bracket. It is the album that should make them a household name. In this day and age of short attention span and publicity by spam, however, it is highly likely that it will be just-anaother-amazing-album-lost-amid-the-noise-in-a-forever-changed-music-industry.

Kill the Power sees Skindred doing what they have always done. Only much, much better. What makes Skindred such an exciting and interesting band - aside from the talented and diverse vocal performances of Benji, the bevy of skillfully integrated electronic production sounds, their tightness live and their ability like Faith No More to fully inhabit genre parameters without losing their identity – is their hybridity.

At their core, Skindred are a post-Bad Brains, crossover reggae act. On their way to this identity they have assimilated the raucous cacophony approach of Public Enemy style hip hop, the bounciness of dumb funk nu-metal, the subdued and sinister crawl of trip hop (woah, blast from the past), dubstep’s mental suffocating menace, trashy garage rock leads and 1980s style arena metal “woah-ohs”. And the best part? Never once does it sound forced or contrived.

Kill the Power opens with the nu-metal lurch of the self titled track. Though familiar sounding, it is the small things, the better written melodies, the transitions between parts and even the production quality is light years ahead of the last album. Playing with the Devil is perhaps my favourite tune on Kill the Power. Starting out like a lost track from Massive Attack’s Blue Lines it warps into a snarling dubstep battery with great vocal hooks. Meanwhile “Ninja” is another aggressive, more up front metal type track that makes excellent use of samples and sample playback (including the cool throwback-primitive rhythmic triggering). “The Kids are Right Now” is a love song to Bon Jovi via reggae and a middle eight that starts out as a dubstep break down but then fires out a so-simple-it’s-cool psyche-rock fuzzed out guitar solo. There is the evocative of U2 pretty melody of ….. and even a duet featuring the tough but smooth vocals of Jenna G.

The most amazing thing about all of this diversity and complexity is that in the quieter moments, when the band employ restraint, the gleaming, well-constructed reggae songs become audible. I haven’t had my mind so twisted by reggae since the early days of Dub Trio. Truly, Skindred have adopted and adapted hybridity and reggae as their own and recalibrated them for the twenty-first century. Kill the Power is original, innovative, interesting and most importantly, it bangs. Easily set to be one of the best albums of the year. Provided it doesn’t get forgotten because of the terrible release window…

 I wonder if they will make it out to Japan… hopefully not on a festival tour.