The only way is Essex
Ladies and gentleman, we may be in presence of future royalty. Colchester may not be renowned for being the home of shoe-shuffling ska, but nine-piece act New Town Kings have brought the spirit of Jamaican reggae to the British Isles. Put on your finest shirt and party on down to the uplifting off-beat sounds of "M.O.J.O.".
Too many kids these days appallingly assume that ska cannot exist without punk and it is these types of album that illustrate the splendour of the genre in a more traditional form. Swinging into action with 'Games That People Play', New Town Kings bustle along with staggered guitars and decorative organ parts. Upbeat songs like 'Newstand' contrast nicely with more relaxed pieces such as 'Stringalong', yet they both entertain with well-harmonised and loveable choruses.
Certain tracks such as 'Stop' and 'Brighter Days' have been sculpted using basic scalic melodies and this degree of simplicity could fail to stimulate demanding musical minds. However such simplicity feels quite at home when considering the relaxed reggae roots that the band's sound stems from. There are occasional moments when rhythmic stabs lack the accentuation that is often synonymous with traditional dance genres such as ska, but the tightness exhibited by the nine talented musicians cannot be faulted.
Although solidly held together by a rock steady rhythmic section, charismatic singer Chris Watts and the band's horn section often attract the most attention. Trumpeter Emily Clemett and Rory Sadler on saxophone (or the 'saxaphone' according to the CD insert) team together divinely, only occasionally let down by grating saxophone intonation such as on 'Dynamite' following the swooping note-bending. The pair is joined by fellow trumpet player Dave Rowland (incorrectly written as 'Roland' on the CD insert) for 'New Town Hop,' allowing the trio to excitingly explore solos that gracefully sing with lyrical character. The final moments of the album leave little to be desired, punching through not one but two sublimely prepared key changes in 'Brighter Days'. Please take note Simon Cowell and your soulless factory mill of unnecessary, cringe-worthy key changes; this is how key changes are meant to be executed.
"M.O.J.O." is an unreservedly charming collection of eleven colourful tunes that crowns New Town Kings an exciting prospect in the kingdom of modern ska and reggae. There remain a few gems that require polishing to truly glisten, but this album is certainly worthy of celebration. Hail to the kings!