In recent years there have been several brilliant ska bands from the UK: Capdown, King Prawn, Filaments…to name but a few. Not only do these bands have their country of origin and Ska music in common, they also share the status of being broken up or defunct. Another band to add to this list is Cardiff’s Adequate Seven. Splitting up in 2006 after only two albums, the other being ‘Here on Earth’, the band joined a growing list of much loved UK –ska-punk bands that died too soon. On most bands debut albums they tend to stick largely to what they know, and the result is a one-dimensional album – half of this applies to Adequate Seven’s debut ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’. Yes, they do
stick largely to what they know; what they know however is ska, punk, funk as well as hardcore punk. With the inclusion of funk, this is an interesting mix indeed.
In fact, as good as this mixture sounds on paper, it sounds even better on record. Hardcore (ska-core) tracks marginally outweigh the more funky tracks, yet overall the various genres on display here are included and mixed nice and roundly. The first track (Refused TSOPTC-pun intended in the title) is a short, lounge jazz influenced funk piece which serves merely as a short introduction. It misleads you, relaxing you before the most hardcore song on the album ‘Human Condition’
. It explodes with angry screams and gang vocals and equally fast and furious horn parts. Within two songs Adequate Seven demonstrate very well indeed the diversity that can be found on ‘Songs of Innocence… They do both laid-back funk and energetic ska-core brilliantly with very few and minor dips in quality.
Songs such as ‘Everybody Hates’
sees the angsty energy of hardcore and punk mixed with the carefree abandon of ska, not to mention a fantastic horn line running through the verses. The only complaint with this is that the horns clash slightly with the vocal line, making each lack the clarity that their excellence deserves. Still, each is clear enough, and the horns shine even further with a split-second appearance of trombone and trumpet solos. The lyrics on many songs here discuss politics at the very lest briefly, and this mixes brilliantly with the youthful energetic music. There are also some brilliant lines such as “My eyes are open tonight and the truth is disturbing, I’ve a feeling it’s time – Time To Break-Out!” in ‘Choices’
. Again, an excellent horn line is prominent through the energetic verses, adding to the quality of the song; as does a less energetic, more anthemic chorus. The two shortest songs on the album come one after the other – ‘No Space’
is followed by ‘Pop Idle’
. The first sees singer Jamie Searle voice at it’s raspy best as the song swings between thin and thick textures, that give the song an equal mix of ska, hardcore and funk. The song is improved greatly by quiet horn parts between verses and a very funky bass solo indeed. The second song, is much more ska-punk orientated with an excellent chant-a-long chorus. It may not match up to the standards of other songs on the album, aside from a great guitar solo it does little to stand out from other punk music.
Where the album does stand out though is in its funkier, more laid back moments. Even when they play a funk song they stay in touch with the punk side of the album with gang vocals, like in ‘Grassroots Resistance’
. It is essentially a funk-with-ska song that has a punky feel to it because of the vocals. It is in songs like this that the bass is given a license to show off, and that is exactly what it does, even if it is a little too low in the mix. Just as the album opened with a funk piece, it would seem fitting to finish it with a funk song. ‘Free The Adequate Seven’
is by far the funkiest song on the album and is a very good song because of it. Meandering guitar melodic lines intertwine with more traditional funk guitar parts brilliantly, while the horns punctuate the vocal lines excellently. The bass jumps around adding to the feel of the song, as do the drums by playing a funky rhythm throughout. Overall, it is an excellent end to an excellent album.
Like their fellow defunct British ska bands, Adequate Seven had a fair amount of success within the punk world, yet remain largely unknown. This is a shame as many are missing out/were missing out. However, as it was, they were one of Cardiff’s best kept secrets, and sometimes bands are best suited to that status. ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ is an excellent debut, one that should have prompted a longer career. Unfortunately, they only made one more album after this one. Being so fluent in switching genres is an ability that they most certainly possessed on this album, and is one that would have got them far. For what it is though, this is an excellent album and definitely one looking into for those that are fans of recent UK ska.