A Band Yet To Define Themselves
For the first time in my Room Thirteen career, I am faced with the daunting task of reviewing a group that I've never heard of before. I like hearing new bands and new music as much as the next person, but I prefer to let their sound 'settle' in my mind before imparting my fabulous opinion upon my fabulous audience. However, the trials and tribulations of the journalistic lifestyle take priority, and therefore here I am, preparing to offer my insight of this as yet, unheard, group of musicians.
SKWAD, the band in question, hail from Pontypridd, Wales, have toured with such rock luminaries as Motorhead, and, as their press release assures me, performed at Reading Festival a few years back, under their previous incarnation 'PsychoSquad.' With such impressive plaudits to their name already, I was expecting good things from these no doubt loveable Welsh chaps. With a sense of nervous anticipation then, I slipped SKWAD's latest record, 'Big Mono' into my computer and began my voyage of discovery.
As the first track, 'What Do You Want' blared from my speakers, I couldn't help but notice how much the intro riff reminded me of CKY's '96 Quite Bitter Beings.' As I stopped to contemplate this, the song swiftly slid into a 'pop-indie' style verse, and before I knew it, it had dived right back into a CKY reminiscent chorus. Whilst this stylistic transition was smooth on an instrumental level, I couldn't help but feel it sounded odd vocally – Todd Campbell, the lead singer, kept his droning voice fairly monotone throughout the track, and it sounded dreadful.
Next up was 'Fire In The Sky,' a song thoughtfully recommended to me by the press release. Slightly put off by the opening track, I was gearing up for more disappointment from a band whose achievements had offered such early promise. The song began with a relatively simple riff, living up to the "punk overtones" the band supposedly has. What followed was a marked improvement on the opening track, SKWAD pumped out a solid rock number in the vein of their compatriots Feeder.
With my confidence somewhat restored, I ploughed through the rest of record, and what followed surprised me. The following three tracks, 'Pressure,' 'Scars,' and 'Shit Happens' are all songs that wouldn't sound out of place on your average punk rock album. Combining the typical energy and speed associated with punk, Todd's once monotone drone came to life and all of a sudden SKWAD were living up to their reputation.
Ending on the chilled out yet catchy 'Nemanja Vidić' – I've had some difficulty working out the song's reference to Man United's Serbian defender – SKWAD left me with the impression of a band who have yet to define themselves sonically.