May 25, 2024

The Skids – Songs From A Haunted Ballroom – a review of a band still full of vim

CLEOPATRA RECORDS     4th June 2021

Whatever happened to The Skids? Bursting into new wave chart attention in 1979 with ‘Into The Valley’, a swirling rabble-rousing chant of a single, they put out a trio of albums, culminating in the marvellously overwrought ‘Absolute Game’. They’d moved on from loud punky dazzlers like ‘Albert Tatlock’ and ‘The Saints Are Coming’ to pretentious lyrics and Stuart Adamson making his guitar sound like the skirl of bagpipes (‘Circus Games’ and ‘A Woman In Winter’). No-one knew what the songs were about but they sounded great and they were laden with the gravitas of poetry. There was only so far they could go and Richard Jobson and Stuart Adamson tore the band apart; Jobson going on to poetry and TV presenting, Adamson to found Big Country. Like Rutger Hauer’s replicant, they had burned bright for just a few years. As is the way of things, the surviving members (Adamson died twenty years ago) reformed 15 years ago and play occasionally.

This is the second of the reformation albums and it is mostly for fun. Good fun, at that. The title tips their hat to their local venue, growing up in Dumfermline, and the album covers artists that influenced them. So we get pretty straight covers of The Clash, The Adverts, The Sex Pistols, Magazine, the obscure Garland Jeffreys, Iggy and The Stooges, etc. It’s not always what you’d expect though and David Essex’s down and dirty ‘Rock On’ makes an appearance, as does Ultravox’s ‘Young Savage’ (this is John Foxx-era Ultravox, not the cinematic glamour Midge Ure-era). The sound is distinctively early Skids and, though the songs aren’t deconstructed or reformed, they aren’t slavish recreations. It’s a return to the sound and energy of their early singles and that is evidenced by two of their own early songs popping up – Into The Valley and The Saints Are Coming.

There is a straight forward (and nostalgic) visceral punch to the delivery of these songs and a thread back to, not only the heady days as music reshaped itself after the kick up the arse punk gave it, but also to relatively simple guitar, bass and drums rock and roll.


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