Review Summary: The Greatest Ragga-Punk-Metal Album of All Time.
Calling something the best of anything seems to a have funny way of attracting gobs of cynicism. Maybe this is because everyday we hear commercials for "the best" burgers, toilet papers, or swifers supposedly on the market; everyone claims they're the best which in turn devalues these claims and has taught us, the consumers, to be wary of such bold statements (much like the people on this site who can't help themselves from giving 5's to albums after they've been out for three hours). In this regard, Skindred's sophomore effort, "Roots Rock Riot" is a rare exception. This truly is the absolute best ragga-punk-metal album ever made. This could be attributed to the fact that Skindred is a one of a kind band that plays a style entirely unique to themselves and also the fact that they have only put out two albums, with their debut being far inferior to this one, never the less Roots Rock Riot is an incredibly accomplished album that has beautifully fleshed out their once eyebrow-raising sound.
For the sake of not leaving anyone in the dark on the new music craze sweeping select parts of the nation, ragga-punk-metal is a style that mixes punky beats and guitar licks, with heavy riffing, groovy basslines, and dub samples, finishing off the package with wildly diverse vocals ranging from Marley-esque croons to hardcore shouts. On paper this sounds like about as good a combo as peanut butter and toothpaste sandwiches, fortunately the result is much more so in the vein of the crisp refreshment of Mike's Hard. Skindred is able to very deftly blend these very disparate attributes together in such a way that is totally accessible and avoids the deadly novelty pitfall. Songs like the title cut, "Ratrace", and "Cause a Riot" have circle pit-ready riffs and vein bulging screams, and yet in parts they are also sing-songy, and even danceable. In many ways Skindred sound like Hed P.E. if they were to actually get their act together and learn how to write "good" music.
It is understandable to see how such a combination would be hard to take seriously, however Skindred are definitely a serious band, at least when they feel like it. Themes of social injustice and such do come up and songs like the incredibly catchy "Trouble" and "Choices and Decisions" have a kind of darker brooding mood to them, however at it's core Roots Rock Riot, is very much a feel-good, rock out witcha cawk out record; something that is difficult to do particularly with any kind of heavy band. Like Babylon many of the lyrical themes revolve around just getting out, jamming to some tunes, and jumping da funk up (seriously Benji live stops the band from playing if not enough people are jumpin'). Skindred are very much a self-aware band, they know very clearly what their music is meant to do and they have no qualms about putting that into their lyrics. Many people seemed to find fault with this on their debut with it coming off as arrogant or corny, but it really is genuine, even if it is unlikely that one would hear them in some club, but I'm sure if they were to they would indeed "Destroy the Dancefloor." The mood of the the album makes it almost impossible to think about that twenty page paper you haven't started, the painful breakup you just went through, or how your pal just spilled a Bud all over your XBOX 360. You'll much more likely feel the urge to grab a skateboard and ride out carefree to the beach with your friends.
Roots Rock Riot is a solid album from start to finish that bursts at the seams with catchy hooks galore and huge fist-pumping sing/shout-alongs. With Babylon the band proved that they were very capable of mixing genres in a way that wasn't just a passing joke, but a fresh new concept and with Riot' they have polished it to a beautiful shine. There are albums one listens to for emotional release, some for relaxation, and others to just jump up and "feel alright." Skindred definitely delivers with the latter promise on such a fantastic follow up.