Release Date: May 10, 2019
Label: Easy Star/Mr. Bongo
Review by Jared Stossel
As I’ve said countless times in past reviews, the concept of a band having just a single genre is being thrown to the wind, perhaps more in 2019 than perhaps in any year I’ve seen. Perhaps there’s a main genre, an artist’s “home room”, to use a classroom analogy. But that “home room” class gets boring after awhile. What’s in the art department? The science lab? What lies within the deep recesses of the school’s library? London, England’s The Skints want to explore everything that the school has to offer. While they’re rooted in reggae, sounds from punk rock, ska, alternative, and even hip-hop make their way around the 14-track offering that is their brand new album, Swimming Lessons.
The album is structured well, and while it seems like it runs a bit long in certain places, it holds together well throughout the nearly hour-long running time. This exploration of genre can be immediately heard on the first track, aptly titled “Learning To Swim”, beginning with a summer time reggae vibe before coursing off into punk rock territory as distorted guitar lines and booming drums blast through the speakers. The most rock-heavy track on the album comes in the form of “What Did I Learn Today?”, and it stands out as a personal favorite of mine, evoking a sound of alternative rock that first came to prominence in the early 90s.
The reggae vibe combines forces with hip-hop on “Armageddon”, playing off a sound in the same vein as bands like Dirty Heads. The four-piece even throw in an acoustic offering, “Donkey Brain”, providing a small break from the full band performance before diving straight back into a hip-hop/reggae styling on “La La La”. Perhaps the album’s most powerful track, “Stop Looking Back” is an emotional outpouring that brings forth a more somber mood, and an effective closing track.
At their core, The Skints are clearly a reggae band, but they do what others don’t always do: they step outside of their comfort zone. If you look at their Facebook page, underneath the Genre descriptor, you’ll only find the following word: “Nope”. With a band like The Skints, that’s how things should be. It works best when they don’t have any limitations as to where they can go musically, and Swimming Lessons only further solidifies this as fact.