Kill The Power
27 January 2014
by Tomas Doyle
Some things just aren’t meant to go together: chalk and cheese, mirrors and vampires, Richard and that droop-faced dipstick Judy. On paper at least reggae and metal fall firmly into this category of rubbish combinations – like pouring a bottle of Levi Roots sauce over a bag of nails. Yet in their 16 years as a band Skindred have more often than not come up with the goods, even if their reputation as a great live act who have never quite achieved their potential persists. Indeed, after more than a decade and a half ripping up stages on the periphery, you fancy that new full length Kill The Power might represent their last chance to really take things up a gear or two. So, is it Buju Banton or steaming pile of poo-ju Banton?
It all starts off pretty promisingly. Opening with a title track that has the band’s trademark bounce, a genuinely captivating chorus and a hefty dose of patois to boot, all the signs point towards the Skindred grabbing their opportunity to shine by the knackers. From there on in though, things start to get a bit wonky. For every smart hook and neat mashup they achieve (and there are a few), there is a song like the ill-judged ‘Playing With The Devil’ with its lumpen dubstep backbone and weakly politicized lyricism. The worst of it comes from a mid-album brace of ‘The Kids Are Right Now’ which feels out of touch to the point of embarrassment, and terminally wishy-washy slow number ‘We Live’, an exercise in banal over-emoting of the sort that is, frankly, very un-Skindred.
And therein lies the rub. This feels decidedly like an album which has been written to target mainstream exposure, to the detriment of what this band are actually about. Skindred are a group who have very obviously got success and record sales on their minds and it is lacquered all over Kill The Power at almost every turn. ‘Saturday’, for example, is a bog standard pop song with dreadlocks and an overdrive pedal; decent enough but certainly not made of the mould breaking stuff we’ve come to expect from this lot. It is a template that is replicated on half of dozen of these tracks. The stark reality for Skindred is that the kernel of what they are – what they have been for the last 16 years – is not really saleable to a middle-of-the-road radio audience no matter how much they want it to be. To dilute themselves in the manner they have here to try and fit in sells short all the great stuff that so clearly do have to offer.
Kill The Power is not a bad record, but it is a compromised one. It is the sound of one of the most enigmatic and unique bands in the UK trying to be something they are not in order to stretch beyond what they have achieved in their careers so far. Take the best of this record, and you have a few tunes that will sit comfortably in the band’s already imperious live show but beyond that it is pretty toothless. An exercise in the value of being yourself, for all the wrong reasons.
Sounds Like: Sort of Skindred but sort of not.
Standout Tracks: Kill The Power, Ninja.