By: Sam Rees
When I was tasked with writing a review of the new self-titled Skaghoors album I was heavily intrigued. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to find a decent ska-punk album, let alone a female-lead one that willingly pushes itself into different genres. And with my recent binging of female-lead punk bands, I was really excited to see what these guys had to offer. The four piece band from Kilmarnock, Scotland describes themselves as ”Punk Rock N’ Roll,” as I can certainly see what they mean as the band takes heavy inspiration from acts such as Pat Benatar, with songs having a comfortable swing to them and the use of gruff, almost bassy female vocals.
With a name like Skaghoors, sounding like something Always Sunny’s Frank Reynolds would say, I didn’t quite know what to expect. My brain instantly connected the first half of the name of to ska music, this was only reinforced by the Pork Pie hat logo and the hats being sported by several band members. But the second half of the name threw me, it evoked thoughts of classic punk bands that had purposefully offensive names, i.e. The Dicks, Circle Jerks, The Slits. So going into the album I really wasn’t sure what to expect. This partially worried me, and also excited me, to see what was coming.
When I started listening to the album I heard an all too familiar military snare roll, which was then accompanied by the female vocals. The intro to the first track, “Another Bloody Hero,” was a little bit wobbly in complete honesty. But the minute the rest of the band joined the vocalist and drums, a wave of energy and classic punk musical stylings exploded onto the track and instantly drew my attention back in, though for some reason the track still seemed a little flat.
The album continued to keep my attention but on certain tracks Like “You Lost Control” I started to get Cyndi Lauper “Time After Time” vibes from it, which was strange and didn’t best fit with the ska/street punk feeling we’d been getting so far. That’s not to say “You Lost Control” is a bad song; it could have just been placed somewhere else in the album or the bass boosted a little bit to fit better with the rest of the album. In the album I see a lot of inspiration from different artists, such as on tracks like “Ernest Boogie,” where there’s a heavy influence from classic ska band The Specials in both chord selection and rhythm.
Despite my criticism, the band does manage something that a lot of bands these days seem to be lacking. With a melodic cover of Lil Jon’s “Get Low,” as the lead singer softly sings out “From the windows, to the walls, to the sweat dripping down my balls, all these b!@ches crawl” which evolves into a hardcore punk track that actually kicks ass, Skaghoors prove they know how to have fun. And having fun as part of a band is something that’s sorely missing these days. As everyone races to be the most serious and proper act they can be, a lot of bands forget how to just be silly and have a good time. Far too many bands slip into the pitfall of “look how serious and edgy we are, aren’t we just soooo brooding?”, and with this one track Skaghoors manage to show they’re not afraid to have just a little fun.
Further into the album there are a few crass tracks involving the song “It’s Only Sodomy,” which from what I can only guess is about a couple’s first time trying out a strap on, and the male partner being uncomfortable. As much as I am aware that the song is a joke, it came across as a little bit…iffy…to say the least. Especially living in the day and age we do, maybe a song about your partner not being ok with the stuff you’re doing to them, especially when the song doesn’t show any signs of irony, isn’t the best thing to be putting on your debut album.
Finally we reach the track that has been pushed to the forefront in terms of advertisement from the band, “Sexually Transmitted Love Song.” Sounding a bit like a Reel Big Fish tune in terms of set up, I couldn’t help noticing the backing saxophone. I wasn’t sure if it was a problem with the sax they were using or if there was some problem in recording, but it sounded as if they had taken the standard saxophone setting off an electric keyboard and just tried to pretend it was real. Along with this, the notes being played by the sax sounded off, like they were being played only slightly in the wrong key. This could be due to not being able to find someone who wanted to join the band to play sax, (believe me, coming from a small town I know how hard it can be to get people to join a band playing music out of the mainstream), but sometimes, if you can’t get the instrument you need, it’s better to just leave it as to not ruin the song you have.
Asides from the brass section my only complaint would be that the lyrics were a little bit gross. Now I’m not going to say you can’t sing about gross stuff in punk songs, Dead Kennedys did it just fine on “Too Drunk to Fuck” and Misfits are constantly singing about death and decay. But this was just a song listing different sexual diseases, and it was just a little unpleasant. If the tempo was a little higher, the saxophone was fixed, and the lyrics were a little less gross, this could be a really, REALLY good ska-punk song. It’s got all the elements, right rhythm, right chords, and the female vocals are fine as well. But it just needs that little extra something.
The final track on the album is an edited version of the earlier mentioned track “You Lose Control,” which is edited to have even more synth. I warn you–this track is incredibly ‘80s sounding.
Over all Skaghoors debut album isn’t a bad album, but it isn’t exactly a good one either. There’s clearly some talented musicians here, and all the members share a vision of how their songs should sound. I think this is a band that will get better over time, but they need the correct funding and vision to do so. After giving the album a few listens I’m sure of my feelings on it, and I’m giving this one a 2.5 out of 5.