Rock, June 2019

hfnalbum.pngThe Skints
Swimming Lessons
Mr Bongo MRBCDLP212

Why The Skints' press bumf describes their music as 'tropical punk', I just don't know. Yes, there's the occasional burst of loud, energised guitar, but mostly their chilled reggae grooves deliver an exquisitely soothing balm that makes life feel bright and wonderful. 'Restless', featuring zippy rap from Protoje, is a perfect jewel of summer fun. 'Gets On Top', a rumination on the crassness of (among other things) TV advertising, is very topical indeed. And the synthesised baroque intro of 'New Kind Of Friend' turns a sweetly yearning love song into something special. Their blend of reggae, dub, rock, dancehall and hip-hop also benefits from the band having three excellent vocalists who solo and harmonise beautifully. JBk


Matthew Edwards And The Unfortunates
The Birmingham Poets
December Square DESQ002

Matthew Edwards should be up there among Britain's most-acclaimed modern singer-songwriters but, after three excellent albums, he's still largely overlooked. This comprises ten impeccably crafted examples of songsmithery, with well-considered lyrics carried along on eminently singable tunes, imaginatively arranged, played by gifted musicians with muscular precision, and always in service to Edwards' compositions. Thematically, the album deals with the past five years during which he has been caring for his late mother, yet Edwards communicates immense sadness without resorting to any maudlin cliches. JBk


The Cranberries
In The End
BMG 538451232

The death of Dolores O'Riordan in 2018 could have ended The Cranberries, but she and guitarist Noel Hogan had already demoed 11 songs intended as the basis of their eighth album. Once the band had come to terms with her passing they knew they had to complete what she had started. Listening to these tracks, it's hard to believe they're anything other than the next great Cranberries album, because they're full of the same life, energy and commitment that the band always had. Perhaps because they were done as demos, O'Riordan's distinctive voice is particularly intense and immediate, and the band's tasteful embellishments make it seem as if she's still here. JBk


Pretty Archie
Hanging On
Curve CURV61

In the vast wasteland of contemporary country music, it's comforting to realise that once in a blue moon a band can still come along that doesn't sound as if it was churned out on the Nashville production- line. Pretty Archie, a Canadian quintet, is one such entity. Their vocal twang and their lyrical topics are clearly country, but their energy and their spirited take on those cliches makes them stand out as something special. Having lately expanded from a four-piece to a quintet with the addition of a second guitarist/mandolinist, Scott MacLean, the band seems re-energised, and is taking the kind of chances that add extra zip and vitality to their songs. JBk