Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kid British: A New Hope For Ska In The 21st Century?

While I join other old school ska fans in looking forward to new releases from Madness and The Specials in 2011, and I am heartened that the bands of my youth (The Beat, The Selecter, UB40) continue to record, tour and play, I have to confess that I often wonder when a new, next generation version of these bands will emerge to carry on the legacy that they created thirty odd years ago. One band that is making a case to carry the torch, albeit with a new and more modern take on the ska genre, is Manchester-based Kid British.

For the uninitiated, Kid British play a mix of ska meets indie pop with strong hints of pop/hip-hop and soul. Visually, this multi-cultural band look exactly like what you would expect the off-spring of 2-Tone to look like. Hyped as the next big thing by the UK mainstream music media two years ago, the band may finally be hitting their stride. With support slots for The Enemy, The Specials and now UB40 under their belts, the band that released an EP titled 'It Was This Or Football First Half' in 2009 to mixed reviews (here's a good one and here's a bad one), may finally be poised to live up to the hype. How have they done that you may ask? By willing to go back to the past to create new ska-flavored sounds (their use of a sample from the Madness song 'Our House' for their song 'Our House Is Dadless' was pure genuis) and by playing great live shows for the fans of bands old enough to be their parents in an attempt to turn them (and their kids) on to their 21st century take on ska. When Lynval Golding comes to one of your shows to personally invite you from the stage to open for shows for the reformed version of The Specials, then you must be doing something right.

Kid British who are currently on a U.K. tour with UB40 are garnering rave reviews for their live show and UB40 saxophonist Brain Travers (who like Golding from The Specials saw the band's potential in revving up their long-time fans) has been tweeting about how much he likes them. And that, I would argue is where Kid British need to focus their attention - on honing their live show. Unlike some of the British music media, I think they have more than a handful of great songs, which speak to what life is like for twenty-somethings in a UK of downsized expectations. For those among you who have not seen the band perform live, have a look at video from a live TV session they recorded. The band are tight, the musicianship is strong, they are visually appealing and their sound is diverse -- just what they need to capture the iPod generation. The songs (all from their debut album) include 'Elizabeth', 'Sunny Days', 'Lets Have A Party' (as great an outtake from The Specials as you are likely to hear) and the Northerner's lament 'Lost In London'.

I have also been struck by the band's creativity and their love of older music. Here are great ska/reggae covers of Thin Lizzy's 'Boys Are Back In Town' and New Order's 'Blue Monday' that the band recorded to honor musicians from their hometown for BBC Manchester. Both are single worthy in my book. Have a look/listen.

You can pick-up a copy of the band's debut album 'It Was This Or Football First Half' on in the U.S. and in the U.K. The band is currently on tour in the U.K. with UB40. If you have seen them, please share your thoughts.

You can listen to and download a track from the new Kid British release 'Winner' from

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