The Skints: Short Change – EP review
Louder Than War’s Nathan Brown reckons The Skints could teach politicians a thing or two about what is really happening on the streets of the UK with their social commentary.
If you haven’t heard The Skints yet, it is time to crawl out from under that rock. From DIY roots in East London and a debut release on Newbury’s Do The Dog Records, the Skints have gained the recognition they deserve. The “Part & Parcel” LP got them airplay on Radio 6Music and their numerous festival appearances have included London International Ska Festival and Tolpuddle Martyrs. They play a mix of soulful reggae and ska with a punk attitude and a modern urban take.
What sets the Skints aside from many of their contemporaries in the ska scene is their ability to nail a reggae sound that conjures up the golden era of the 70s. They can replicate the melodica of Augustus Pablo, delayed horns a la King Tubby, the keyboard skank of Back To The Plant, the 2 Tone guitar-driven ska sound or toasting/rapping which brings them bang up to date with modern street culture but all is done with their own individual stamp. We have here four talented musicians who bely their relative youth. A contrast to my own lack of youth – betrayed by the fact that I don’t really know which genre I should reference when describing the toasting!
The Skints are conscious. They are political – less guitar-as-AK47-pop-revolutionary idealist, more kids on the street telling us how life is for them, and those around them giving them genuine rather than affected relevance. The three track “Short Change” EP (Remember The Clash’s “Cost of Living” EP?) arrived on my desktop the same day that the media were telling us that wages were rising, inflation was dropping and unemployment was down. This repeated press office/statistician lie of prosperity is a story that no-one I know is experiencing.
When The Skints open up “The Cost of Living is Killing Me” with the line, “In this free country where nothing is free, the cost of living is killing me” they are to be believed and come across as more convincing and genuine than politicians claiming there is a “cost of living crisis” for only as long as they think it will bring them votes. And drummer Jamie displays his ability to hold a tune as well as provide a mean rhythm. The Skints aren’t proposing a solution, they are just telling it how it is.
This record leans more to the reggae/rock steady side of The Skints’ output with a modest tempo, plenty going on behind the drumkit, steady work from bassplayer Jon and bubbling keyboards with the guitar playing a supporting role. Vocal duties are shared throughout and supplemented on “Break Me Down” by London based rapper Jovel. This track starts off with a skanky keyboard melody that brings to mind tracks by Max Romeo or Justin Hinds then develops into a summery Lover’s Rock tune interspersed with two bouts of toasting, one from the aforementioned Jovel and one from guitarist Josh.
The final track, “Broken Hearted” continues on the relationship/love theme, Marcia asking, “Are you ever gonna love me or am I wasting my time?” This time the rhythm section provide a Dancehall beat and the song as a whole has a pop song vibe to it (at the band’s own admission). Again, the song oozes sunshine and summer.
While displaying a more poppy approach than previous releases, The Skints are still very much purveyors of fine reggae and this could be just the thing to play in the summer when you set up the sound system in the back garden to annoy/treat the neighbours! Also available on Soulbeat Records in Europe.