2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Formed by members of the hilariously names Ramraid the Offy and Inline Skating Barbie's (previously local to Portsmouth Ska scene), although the punk rock and ska elements are still apparent, this is a million sonic miles from most ska/punk bands. This comes closer to the sound of Bunny Wailer's slow paced peaceful music, and the London life lyrics of the Clash or The Filaments.
I was surprised to discover that Itch and Jamie Jazz from Ramraid the Offy were in such a chilled out and rhythmic band, as Ramraid the Offy were a very loud, abrasive and snotty punk rock band, who were probably the loudest support act Ive seen (supporting the Filaments ''last gig'').
This record bares many similarities with modern reggae groups who have recorded over the last few years. Bands such as Suicide Bid and Bedouin Soundclash are similar. Although King Blues definately stand out in closer comparison with those bands, with a more folky sound, raspy yet soulful lyrics and a Ukulele.
The Ukulele will likely become something of a trademark, as it is an important part of thier sound. I have only seen one other ska band use a Ukulele before, and they used it in a very different way. While other bands Ive seen have picked a melody along to a ska rhythm, Itch picks his along to ska rhtyhms as well as soemtimes leading the rhythms and melodies with strums.
For someone who has never spent time in London, there may seem to be something lacking with this record, the liner notes are filled with photographs of London, and the lyrics mostly concern London life. However, the themes of racism, peace and music will definately speak to more than the converted and Londoners. This record describes themes a feelings which I have been feeling. It captures the paranoia the media is making sme feel, the fear from right wing movements getting more support, and the increasing inner city violence. But dont worry too much, this doesnt just complain about all things wrong, there is strong hope throughout the record, and the folky/ska tunes are very uplifting.
The record begins with recordings of uplifting peace group speeches and news reports. Although in some parts of the punk community this has become a tired trend of forcing a Noam Chomsky speech into the recording which has little relevence to the records themes. This has a speech made in London during the marches just prior to the invasion of Iraq, which members of the band attended. A news braodcast reporting the worldwide protest demonstration, and a very short echoed clip of America's President George Bush. An unusual addition to the samples is young children giving thier opinions on the war, although not the best political thinkers, even a child knows the value of peace and life.
This gentle build up builds up into the explosive bouncy rhythm of 'Blood On My Hands'. This song brings in most of the sound on the record, the bouncy rhythm, singalong choruses and socially aware political themes. The fantastic chorus of ''I wont give my life away to a government that oppressed me, I wont have blood on my hands for the sake of the economy'' lifts the rhythms and scope higher by taking some of the instrumentals away for the chorus.
'Under the Fog' the title track is a much more folky affair, with no ska rhythm, just a fast paced guitar strummed singalong. This has more personal than political lyrics, it makes a good break between two rhythms as it is just shy of two minutes long.
'Mr Music Man' was the origional demo track which the band posted on thier myspace, and got thier deal with Householdname records. This is a new version, which has a better vocal performance from Itch and Jamie, it also has a deeper bass mix making it sound more like a rootsy reggae song with deep bass, drum echoes and soulful backing vocals. I particularly enjoy the theme of this song, which is trying to blag into gigs, and drinking and smoking on the streets. The fantastic verse of ''De band dey come an say dat dey nah wanna play ska, dem a wanna play emo cos dat gonna go far, see dem ah always following di new coming trend, dem a got no soul dem a so shameless'' This sums up how many people within the core of the ska scene feel about the current trend of emo. Many old ska 'fans' and 'bands' have shown thier true colours, and have moved on from ska being popular to the new fashion of emo. Although this isn't true of all emo bands, many are shameless soulless bandwagon hoppers with very little to offer.
You probably noticed the way I wrote the lyrics for the quotation, King Blues like many current political punk/reggae/ska/folk groups are inspired by the work of Dub poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson (who also write and sang about racism, paranoia and London life), although the origional Dub poets used the simplified english because they were part of the immigrant population, it also added strength and a powerful delivery to thier performances. King Blues live amongst many different immigrant cultures, and London is one of the worlds most culturally diverse cities. King Blues are making good use of thier surroundings as influences.
'Coming Fi Di Youth' is the closet to Dub the record gets, with the deepest bass, sparse echoed soulful lyircs. The powerful message of this song is against the violence and ideals that the BNP and thier supporters inflict upon London's population, the theme is a simple and old one, but a welcome one, as there is still a problem.
another highlight of the record is the Doo-Wop-esque 'If I Had a Coin' with its great singalong refrain, it stands out well on the record, and is alot of fun. Very uplifting and relaxing. It surprised me that Itch who used to front an abrasive street punk band was capable of this vocally.
'Chimp In a 3 Piece Suit' is a folky slow paced track aimed at American President George Bush, although this is a common theme for bands at the moment, not many folk/ska hybrids have yet performed one, and the chorus makes for a good cheerful singalong.
'Getting Out Of Here' is the last song, and is a good finish to the record. With a bouncy simple piano tune playing, with light percussion deep bass and Itch singing about his wish to leave London. He talks about the violence of most of the youth, and the current political atmosphere in the UK. The piano on this track should have featured on more of the record, as it works so well on this track, but saving to the end of the record was also a good idea.
Last Hours magazine said of this record ''The best album you will hear all year'' although I dont think this will appeal to everyone, this will certainly make waves within the punk, ska and political scenes. Its certainly the best album of the year so far.