Kioko: Let’s Be Frank – EP Review
Kioko are a multiracial reggae/ska/pop band from Birmingham, United Kingdom. Although the music on this EP (their second) is not directly political, the band have been hailed as heroes of the post-Brexit fall out Britain has been experiencing recently. The result of the EU referendum last year has widely been credited with increasing incidents of racism up and down the country, with many people of black, Asian and east European descent saying they no longer feel as safe here as they did previously. One particularly shocking story involved the soul singer David McAlmont (of McAlmont & Butler fame) recalling an incident on his Facebook account last year in which he was called a “fucking black twat” after apologising for accidentally stepping in front of a woman in a queue in his hometown of London, a sickening act of prejudice the like of which he said he hadn’t experienced there for many years, blaming the incident firmly on Brexit. It’s an ugly, highly concerning situation which, along with the possible financial meltdown the country has the potential to sink into (particularly with the present government slashing public services left and right) appears to be dragging the UK into a medieval quagmire, with public hangings, witch trials and the reintroduction of torture instruments such as the iron chair lurching menacingly on the not-too-distant horizon. As Great British fuck ups go, this is right near the top of the fuckometer.
It’s part of the reason why, in the midst of such anger, uncertainty and turmoil, bands like Kioko seem so fucking essential. Produced by Dubwiser drummer (and sometime bandleader for Lee ‘Scratch Perry) Spider Johnson, this skanking septet certainly delivers. Kioko Skank kicks thing off, a Scientist meets Skatalites swamp of door-rattling dub bass, frantic ska horns and ghostly roots style vocal passages. Although blessed with summery hooks, blissed out Wailers vocals and a beat you can lean against, single Tired of Lying is cut with deceptively bittersweet lyrics seemingly concerned with a relationship breakdown. The band’s guitarist Jon Brown has said that the EP deals with the personal problems the band experienced as an up and coming outfit in the music industry, so perhaps it’s an analogical examination of the machinations of the record business. Either way, it’s a damn fine tune.
The title track (a dub of which closes the recording) appears to cover similar ground, world-weary words set to catchy melodies and effortlessly upbeat instrumentation, while Kiss Away is a riot of dancehall riddims and soulful roots reggae. It’s an inventive, highly original release guaranteed to keep your mind racing and your toes tapping throughout. As Pauline Black said during The Selecter’s set at Liverpool’s Positive Vibration reggae festival this year, “multiculturalism is the way forward.” Bands like Kioko should be worshipped as Gods in dangerous times like these, especially when their music’s as good as this!
For more info on Kioko please head to their facebook page https://en-gb.facebook.com/kiokomusicuk/