By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
Skindred are a cult classic; their mix of styles & influences forever produce a myriad of songs on their albums, and their shows across the country are the stuff of legend. But with their new album Big Tings, it really feels like Skindred have evolved their sound, and are ready to burst into the wider public conciousness.
Some will be quick to pooh-pooh the “pop” sound of Big Tings, but when you don’t turn your nose up and turn your ears on, you’ll see that this is a high energy, proper rock ‘n’ roll album, that accomodates for the old guard, but opens themselves out to new fans with catchy riffs and big vocals.
Right from the off, title track Big Tings sets the tone for the album; bouncy, energetic and in parts has quite a “summery” vibe to it… maybe it’s because we’re on the cusp of summery sunshine, sinking suds & sizzling sausages, but there’s a real feel of burning down a country road with the smell of freshly cut grass in the air. Not to put words into Skindred’s mouth, but your songs being compared to freshly cut grass is as good as it gets for a band. Unless you’ve got hay fever, then it would suck… er… Big Tings is a scented candle that smells of freshly cut grass. All the lovely smells without crying your eyes out.
Big Tings, the song, not the album has got a burly vibe to it, the fuzzy bass has a real brawler feel to it, but feels light on its feet as Benji Webbe howls on a big, bombastic chorus, something that runs through the veins of this song.
One of the best tracks on the album is right at the front; That’s My Jam does what it says on the tin, as it’s a huge jam. The verse has got a real cool rock ‘n’ roll feel to it, but goodness, the chorus hook is fucking fantastic. Hugely simple, but the whoops with “That’s my jam!” layered over a riff is so damn good. This is your jam, and lets frontman Benji Webbe stretch his vocal legs. You can just imagine a thronging festival crowd bouncing up and down to this song in the late August sun. You’ll be a freak for the rhythm, slave to dance and in the palm of their hand.[youtube https://youtu.be/9GkkR6-er4c]
To be completely brutal, this isn’t Skindred’s best ever album, but Big Tings is huge fun, and stepping to Skindred’s back catalogue is hard work. From front to back, you can spin this album over and over again and still enjoy every catchy hook and bouncy chorus, and that’s what rock ‘n’ roll should be; a whole lot of fun. It’s a huge evolution of their sound, but they’ve still got the titanium skeleton in their sound; as we spoke about earlier, detractors will be quick to say that they’ve sold out or softened up or some bollocks like that, but write all of that off as you enjoy a thoroughly rocking album.
Another highlight on Big Tings is quite easily Loud and Clear. The thick, sludgy bass rattles your organs as yet again! We’ve got another big chorus towering over the rest of the song. Again, this is a song that’ll translate well into Skindred’s live set up. There’s a real arena filling quality to a lot of these songs, but still feel like you could bounce from side to side in a small hall to them. Same goes for All This Time, it gets you bopping your head with an infectious, powerful, beltable chorus, because you’ll have a hell of a good time shouting “You got the best of me, you won’t get the rest of me” at a concert, or in your ex’s face.
Machine is a cheeky wink towards AC/DC, with guest vocalist Gary Stringer sounding like Bon Scott and Brian Johnson had a baby, and Machine sounding like AC/DC and Skindred had a baby; big riffs, howling vocals and the bridge of “Rock and roll, save my soul” sounding like a classic 80s ‘Deece chant. It gives you a real feeling of swagger as you strut along to it. Huge fun.
The end song of an album is hugely important as well; it’s where the credits roll and you start to reflect on what you’ve just listened to, and with Saying It Now, Skindred have nailed the credits. A slow, acoustic jam that again shows Benji’s amazing range with “I’m saying it now, but I wish I’d said it before” stretching his vocals and tugging your heart strings as actual strings slowly work their way into the song, then towards the end, picks up the pace with a lovely crying solo layered underneath the vocals.
Yes, there are stronger albums in Skindred’s discography, but that’s not to do Big Tings a disservice; from front to back it’s a fun, energetic and bouncy album, with choice cuts an absolute must for your playlists.