SKIDS – Songs From A Haunted Ballroom

Cleopatra 2021

SKIDS –
Songs From A Haunted Ballroom

Scottish punks homage to their home-turf haunt by dusting off pieces they loved back in the day.

Unfortunately, the tendency to deliver cover albums infected even those who were once deemed non-conformists; mercifully, this bunch of Dunfermline musicians have a conceptual excuse for what they do on this album. Most of the cuts here got played in the late ’70s in “The Kinema Ballroom” – the town’s primary concert venue – with Richard Jobson and his friends either in the audience or on stage, and now the nostalgia-stricken quintet raided collective memory for their own pleasure and threw in a couple of their own classics alongside numbers from artists they respect. The veterans’ preferences are questionable, though.

While it would be tempting to hear SKIDS perform a piece by fellow Fifers NAZARETH, they go for something fairly obvious to coolly ennoble “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Submission” and squeeze the ever-effervescent, if not fantasy-filled, “New York Groove” – another old chestnut – between these two punk perennials as though to stress the predictability of such choices. Much more interesting are the ensemble’s roots-baring takes on Garland Jeffreys’ “35mm Dreams” and Nick Lowe’s “Heart Of The City” that Jobson’s vocals move away from soul and pub-rock glamorize with a lot of gusto as guitars courtesy of Bruce and Jamie Watson – them of BIG COUNTRY, another Dunfermline outfit – sparkle and roar. But, of course, there are also surprising selections which work wonders.

Who’d think these Scots would give proper gravity and nuanced arrangements to evergreens like “Rock On” or “Young Savage” that opens this record? As William Simpson’s bass and Mike Baillie’s drums produce hoodoo charms, the singer serves up a brief reminiscence to the former track and turns the latter into raving anthem, whereas “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” emerges as a slightly fatted clone of THE ADVERTS’ original, and MAGAZINE’s “The Light Pours Out Of Me” is only made heavier. However, the recent vibrant updates of SKIDS’ chart-riders “The Saints Are Coming” and “Into The Valley” are as great as it gets, and the addition of the band’s 2020 Yuletide single “Christmas In Fife” – their fresh folk-infused family ballad – should render “Songs” a nigh on essential listening. And thus off the window banality goes…

****

May 26, 2021

Category(s): Reviews
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