#Review: Pick It Up – Ska in the 90s

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Following the success of his previous feature documentary (Here’s to Life: The Story of the Refreshments), director, Taylor Morden – an on-and-off trumpet player in ska bands for over 20 years – has returned to the world of ska to help bring the story of 90s ska to the masses. With a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the documentary took full flight and could not have been better produced, more thorough or more interesting to watch. Here’s what we had to say about it…

Pick It Up! Cover

From the very start, there are some wonderful aspects to this film, that instantly jump out at the viewer. Firstly, there is the fantastic animation weaving its way seemlessly throughout the documentary – some of it flows over footage of the various interviewees and other sections are entirely animated – but it all works so well! Secondly, is the truly amazing cast of stars from the genre, talking about their experiences with anecdotes and opinions that  they lived through during the ska scene in the 90s. Lastly, is the fact that the film is entirely narrated by Tim Armstrong (best known as the singer/guitarist for the punk rock band Rancid, and before that, the ska band, Operation Ivy – considered instrumental for the genre, despite only ever releasing one album).

But, what is ska?
Well, a lot of the cast of the film, brilliantly sum it up as “fast reggae with horns”.

Near the beginning of the film, we’re treated to a journey through the origins of ska, back in the 1950s, with a beautifully descriptive piece about what nights of ska music would have been like in its native Jamaica and then how it made its way over to the UK, settling in places like Brixton, Notting Hill and Coventry and on from there. This whole segment is accompanied by that wonderful animation, to bring it to life. It’s also interesting to know that reggae music actually wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for ska music being slowed down, and that also two-tone and ska punk both found their origins in ska.

This is a truly engaging film that is easy yet interesting to watch. It’s split into sections, looking at specific aspects of the genre like “skanking” (the very limb-orientated dance); the horn section (in particular, how in magazine photos they would often hold their horns to show it’s a ska band); and the DIY ethic of the genre – from posters to merchandise, bands would do pretty much everything themselves, such as designing logos, posters for shows and more, as cheaply as possible.

It’s fascinating that many consider 90s ska to have been brought to the forefront of the mainstream market due to No Doubt signing to a major label (Interscope Records) and releasing their hit album, Tragic Kingdom – which interestingly wasn’t very ska in style but due to their roots in the genre, helped highlight it to the masses.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – whether you’re into ska or not, if you’re interested in music, this is a film you can learn a lot from.

We also learn that others had a big impact on the genre – Goldfinger were entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for playing 385 gigs in a single year; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ made an appearance in the cult movie, Clueless; and the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games introduced ska to a new generation too.

The film looks further into the “ska scene” and how instrumental live shows were, not only for bands and their friendships but the fans and creating shared experiences too. Additionally, despite touring extensively, money for ska bands was often in short supply due to the number of members in a band, but often small indie labels would release compilation CDs to showcase some of their band’s best work, to generate further interest in them. A lot of these smaller indie labels would operate as mail order services.

One of the most postive and interesting things about ska is the unity within the genre – black and white people would work in bands together, in harmony, so if anyone demonstrated any racism at shows, bands wouldn’t stand for it, however fights would frequently break out at shows as a result. This is one of the main reasons that the black and white checkers became a thing of ska. Also, there are a fair few women in genre and they address how these women would often have to hold their own with their strong characters and no-nonsense attitudes.

Unfortunately, by the turn of the millennium, as major labels had almost made ska a parody of itself, the ska bubble burst and the scene had become saturated with similar bands. As a result, people started to turn their backs to it and bands themselves started adapting to new sounds and dropping their horn sections.

There will always be a subculture for ska – just like with punk rock – but it’s not as mainstream as it was in the 90s. However, there is a bit of nostalgia resurge for ska at the moment (as well as 90s music in general), so whilst bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish are making new music ,they have a lot of fans reliving their youths by coming to shows. That said, across Mexico, Japan and Europe there is still a lot of love for ska and there’s hope for a ska revival in the near future, as the world could use some positivity right now.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – whilst I like ska, it’s not a genre I know tons about but whether you’re into it or not, if you’re interested in music, this is a film you can learn a lot from, not only about the genre and it’s origins but from first-hand accounts of the scene during the 1990s, in an engaging and humourous way. Plus, you actually find yourself absorbed in the music itself – in fact I’ve had the playlist from the movie (below) on repeat ever since!

Rating
5


‘Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s’ is out now and can be ordered/downloaded from the official website – https://www.skamovie.com/shop-1


Listen to the ‘Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s’ official playlist on Spotify


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! Have you seen this SKAcumentary yet? What did you think of it? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: Yonaka – Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow

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Yonaka are one of the hottest bands to come out of Brighton in recent years. The rock quartet, comprised of Theresa Jarvis (vocals), George Edwards (guitar), Alex Crosby (bass guitar) and Robert Mason (drums) formed in our home town, some four years ago. The band have been busy touring and recording, making big waves in the industry, even signing to Asylum Records (part of Warner Music Group). Now, 2019 sees the release of their debut album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Yonaka - Don't Wait 'Til Tomorrow.jpg

Having already received a lot of favourable press and released the successful EP, Creature, in 2018, the pressure was on for Yonaka to produce a hard-hitting debut album. Luckily though, the band have delivered a piece of work that really packs a punch, demonstrating just how much potential they have and what a great career they have ahead of them.

From opening track, ‘Bad Company’, with Theresa’s wonderful falsetto vocals and the captivating, accompanying instrumental, the album never fails to impress!

For a fledgling band, it’s so easy for their songwriting to be immature and instrumentation to be lacking in diversity, but that’s where Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow truly stands out. ‘Awake’ is a truly grungy, lyrically cutting track, whilst ‘Guilty (For Your Love)’ displays anthemic rock song qualities, sure to have crowds singing it back to them.

Some other songs to really take note of: ‘Lose Our Heads’ is a rather commercial offering and could easily find its way to mainstream radio, ‘Creature’ has a rock-out feeling that is sure to get audiences moving and ‘Punch Bag’ is a high-energy, no holds barred, knockout track that shows Theresa is just not someone you mess with!

Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow is ambitious and undoubtedly a strong debut, delivered with conviction and tenacity…

Title track, ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, very much feels like a modern-day incarnation of Blondie and ‘Fired Up’ could easily be a new direction taken by No Doubt; all of which just goes to show how this could easily be the album a band with a lengthy career already behind them…not their debut!

‘Wake Up’ is a surprising track with its dreamy, almost ethereal feel and is a song to get completely lost in – it could happily sit on repeat and never get boring.

However, probably the best track on the record has to be ‘Rockstar’; the song wonderfully encapsulates Yonaka right now and manages to be chaotic and exhilarating, whilst also be cool and composed. It’s a song that could suit so many moods and sees Theresa forcefully singing, “I just wanna be a rock star, baby,” something the band can rest assured that this debut is sure to help them achieve.

The album draws to a synth-driven close with ‘The Cure’ – a track which leaves the listening hanging and certain to come back for another listen.

Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow is ambitious and undoubtedly a strong debut, delivered with conviction and tenacity and certain to pave the way for one of Britain’s newest and most exciting rock bands! Bring on the tours and roll on album number 2!

Rating
4-5


‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/dont-wait-til-tomorrow/1451808477


Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow on Spotify

Lose Our Heads (Official Live Video)

Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow (Official Live Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s debut album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: Siamese – Super Human 🦸‍♂️

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Siamese are a 4-piece metal-pop band from Denmark (read our interview with Mirza here) who made serious waves on the scene with their 2018 album, Shameless. Since touring with that album, the band have once again, been busy in the studio and now return with their latest record, Super Human, alongside a mini UK tour too. Here are our thoughts on the album.

Siamese - Super Human

At times, Siamese have found it difficult to be taken seriously within the genre and it’s easy enough to see why – they are not just a straightforward metal band, and Super Human is no exception. They merge Metal with genres like Pop, R&B and Dance and for die-hard fans of metal, this just doesn’t cut it. However, the band have stuck to their guns with their unique take on the genre and that shows conviction for what they believe in…and it’s a good thing!

From the opening track and lead single, ‘B.A.N.A.N.A.S’, with its reference to Gwen Stefani‘s, ‘Hollaback Girl’, on top of an intense metal instrumental – the pace for the record is set.

Other tracks that really stand out, include ‘Ocean Bed’ – an intensely emotive song with a grungy, heavy metal breakdown; the incredibly unique ‘Super Human’ – an urban-tinted affair with powerful lyrics about inner strength and guest vocals from Olivio Antonio and ‘Unified’ – a very personal track on which Mirza opens up about his background as a refugee.

Super Human is a good album and certainly isn’t lacking in musical diversity throughout. Siamese have managed to successfully amalgamate different genres to create a really cohesive body of work.

There are other moments to enjoy throughout the album though; ‘Animals’ begins with a church-like organ and builds like a Dance track would before launching into chugging metal; ‘You’re Not Alone’ is an uplifting song not only lyrically but reflected in the instrumental too, plus there are great vocal harmonies at the end (even if they are heavily autotuned) and ‘Give Me Up’ has Asian-tinted drums to open and a monasterial gang-vocal breakdown at the end – it’s very confessional in tone.

The only track which feels slightly out of place is ‘Party Monster’. It makes almost tongue-in-cheek jibes at vacuous pop songs however it feels like it might be trying to be serious too – it just doesn’t quite land.

The album is brought to a close by ‘Not Coming Home’ – 90s/00s-style Prodigy-esque Dance opening and drum beat that ends in chaos, leaving the listener wanting more.

Super Human is a good album and certainly isn’t lacking in musical diversity throughout. Siamese have managed to successfully amalgamate different genres to create a really cohesive body of work, mostly self-produced, allowing them freedom to create what they want. However, there are moments when the integrity behind the lyrics is not always sincerely delivered, focusing more on the style than the substance. Plus, one or two of the songs sound fairly similar – overall though, it’s a pretty solid record. The artwork is unusually well-matched to the album too, with several of the songs having an underlying religious or spiritual undertone to them, even if, in parts, it’s just in the musical composition rather than the lyrical content.

This album is surely going to further cement the band’s place within the genre though and demonstrates that they are seriously players on the scene. Personally, the genre-bending brings something interesting to the table, meaning they stand out from the rest, and it’s intriguing to see where they take their style next!

Rating


‘Super Human’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/super-human/1455133470


Super Human on Spotify

B.A.N.A.N.A.S (Official Video)

Super Human featuring Olivio (Official Video)

Animals (Official Video)

Ocean Bed (Official Lyric Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s latest album? Is Super Human going to be your soundtrack to 2019? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

Muzik Speaks Album Reviews


Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#WildCardWednesday: Siamese – ‘B.A.N.A.N.A.S’

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Siamese are an award-winning, Danish, Pop-Metal band and following their previous album, Shameless, gained more than 8 million streams, catapulting them to recognition outside of Denmark, and enabling them to play sold out shows in Japan, UK and Germany.

Singer, Mirza Radonjica-Bang, said, “B.A.N.A.N.A.S, the album opener was actually written for the Shameless album. At least the starting riff was. But ultimately we were never satisfied with anything but the riff. We left it alone for two years before absolutely nailing it. One of my favourite tracks on the album for sure.”

This track showcases just how epic this band are – huge synth use, grungy guitars and metal drum patterns, all topped off with the wonderful sample of Gwen Stefani‘s ‘Hollaback Girl’ make this truly stand out! It’s a real genre-bending song that will appeal to people of all tastes from pop to metal.

Their next release, Super Human (out Friday 24th May), continues to showcase their trademark big choruses and well-written instrumental compositions; what’s more, it’s all self-produced!

Watch out for this band as they continue to go from strength to strength!

What are your thoughts of this singer-songwriter? Got a #WildCard Wednesday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘B.A.N.A.N.A.S’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/ru/album/b-a-n-a-n-a-s/1455133470?i=1455133474&l=en


#FeelGoodFriday: Ne-Yo – ‘Friend Like Me’ (from Disney’s Aladdin)

Without a doubt, this song is the definition of feel-good! You may remember our Disney week earlier in the year and ‘Friend Like Me‘ was one of my chosen songs for that week!

Well, good news Disney-lovers, Disney are are getting set to release the mother of all cover albums on 30th October 2015, ‘We Love Disney’. The album is set to feature covers by a range of artists including Jessie J, Jason Derulo, Gwen Stefani, Fall Out Boy and of course Ne-Yo, all covering a range of well-loved Disney songs.

This is the first song to be released from the upcoming compilation and it’s hard-hitting, jazzy and downright fun! I can’t wait to hear the rest of it!

What do you think of this song? Are you a fan? Are you excited to hear the rest of the album? What’s your #FeelGoodFriday song of the week? Please leave a comment below or Tweet/Facebook us with your song choice.


‘Friend Like Me’ is available on iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/friend-like-me-from-aladdin/id1031309098?i=1031309099


Matt – Muzik Speaks
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