The Skinner Brothers Soul Boy II review
Named after a notorious gang of outlaws in a video game and known for fierce gig presence, its easy to think of The Skinner Brothers as a leading force on so called “lad culture scene”. But make no mistake: Zachary Charles Skinner (vox, guitar), Joe Fisher (guitar), Perry Meadowcroft (bass), and Alfie Clayton (drums) are so much more than cans of Stellas, rowdy football matches and out of tune “Wonderwall”. This band just delivered one of the most stunning albums on English music scene in years and will surely appear in countless best offs at the end of 2022.
Based in Brentford, west London, The Skinner Brothers are not debutantes. Zachary Skinner has been active on music scene for over a decade and released three albums to date: “25 to Life” (2019), “27 to Life” (2019) and “Soul Boy I” (2020).
There is a bittersweet trailer advertising new record in which Zachary says that he must have lived in 50 different rooms and had over 35 band members. “It’s our time” he proclaims at the end of it. And in a way, it sums the “Soul Boy II” perfectly.
This is not an indie four piece that will play for few years and then split up to be forgotten. Zachary Skinner is not some laddie, who thinks himself a clone of Alex Turner. He is a band leader, old style. In the 30s during swing dominancy, artists such as Artie Shaw or Benny Goodman weren’t just composers or instrument players, they were leading large, often changing ensembles of selected musicians to create tours and records that defined the era. They were first influencers you could say. Not only Zachary Skinner lives in the (new) 20s, but he also dresses for the part. And he is a damn fine at leading an ensemble.
On the sides, if the idea of a band leader may seem outdated to you, then look at Green Jellÿ an an American political and comedy rock band led by Bill Manspeaker who, commercial success or self-funding, tours and records for over 40 years with hundreds of musicians including members of Tool, GWAR and Scatterbox. This is the standard that Zachary Skinner represents.
But back to the music – what makes “Soul Boy II” an awesome record? Almost every song brings something new to the wonderful mixture of beats and genres. “Mountain High” could easily be
a dance track at the old Hacienda, “M.O.R.E” feels like a Motown song, while leading single “Stupid Much?” is a semi acoustic ballad that would not feel out of place in Macy Gray`s repertoire. There`s a bit of The Verve on the album (“Give It All to Me”), some Razolight vibes (“Told You So”) and “1000 Reasons Why” is a delightful mish mash of Arctic Monkeys` energy and Madness` sense of humour. The Skinner Brothers effortlessly move between classic rock, Madchester sound, soul and blues. My favourite track remains “Way Too Far”. It reminds me of Sublime, and anything with the grove and raw honesty of Brad Nowell is always close to my heart.
“Soul Boy II” is closed by a reprise of “Stupid Much?” with guest appearance from TeeF. This up-and-coming rapper/singer is part of Tonga Collective, a loose knit group of musicians from London.
The whole record stands at 38 minutes with 13 songs, a bit short for my taste considering what
a cracker it is and you simply don’t want it to end.
I absolutely love the voice of Zachary Skinner – he is one of those artists who can fit into any genre and still make it their own. He is also truly blessed with a unique, warm tone. Easily recognizable.
A quality he shares with the likes of Mark Lanegan, Shawn Smith or Garland Jeffreys. Maybe I am expecting too much, but I would not be surprised if the next record seen The Skinner Brothers working with a gospel choir – akin to what Primal Scream did on “Screamadelica.” Somebody please fly the boys to NOLA. Now that would be fun.
Cherry on the cake – “Soul Boy II” came out on Blaggers Records, a small indie label that can only be described as new Bella Union or 4AD. Their roster includes JW Paris, The Strange Days and Ali MacQueen. Recently the label in association with Vandalism Begins at Home, Blender and Transmission Indie organized Project: Leave the Capital – an EP and a tour promoting new and up and coming artists such as Luna Rosa, The Seven Sentinels or Sean Grant and The Wolfgang.
The Skinner Brothers will tour UK in March, playing over 20 gigs all over the country.
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