Here at The Daily Campus, we receive a plethora of free stufffrom record labels eager for some good reviews. Sometimesit’s little more than a sampler of a group’s latestefforts, sometimes it’s a full album. For the longest time,this mountain of music has remained untouched for fear of what liesbeneath its shrink-wrapped surface of bad cover art and exclamationmark-laden cover letters. After all, if a record label has resortedto sending full albums to a college newspaper, they must bedesperate.
But no longer — I have taken it upon myself to diveheadfirst into this stagnant pool of mediocrity and bring to thesurface the very worst that music has to offer. You may not agree,you may think I’m too harsh, but that’s the nature ofthis business. This is Bad Press.
The first thing you need to know about Skindred is that they area “ragga punk” group. However, neither word is reallyaccurate. It’s not really “punk;” it’s moreof a hardcore rock, nu-metal amalgam. And it’s not really”ragga,” which I can only assume is a variation of”reggae.” It’s more of a… well, if youwere to take a singer who can sing in a reggae style and stuck himin front of a power-chord crunching nu-metal band, that’swhat Skindred sounds like.
I used to think hardcore bands were the most incomprehensiblemusical acts around; when your “singing” consists ofscreaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs, it’s notexactly easy to understand what is being said and/or sung. ButSkindred definitely earns the distinction of being utterlyincomprehensible, even with the lyrics sitting open in front ofyou. Apparently, the lyrics in the liner notes were writtenphonetically and are as hard to figure out as their audiblecounterparts.
With screamo, at least you can figure out some of what is beingsaid with a little research. In Skindred’s case, you can readthe lyrics, but it won’t do much good. It looks like Englishin that it consists of words found in the English language, for themost part. But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense.”Blend up the ragga metal punk hip-hop / Unity sound killergroove non stop / In ah Fe dis pit only the strong survive /Strength and power ago keep dem alive.” There is only oneanswer: Skindred is speaking in tongues. Hallelujah.
But I’ll be honest. Skindred is sort of catchy.There’s just something kind of cool about combining twogenres that have not been combined before. For instance, bands likeGhoultown, who play a kind of country-goth rock, are interesting tolisten to at least once, even if the music isn’t all thatgreat in the long run. It’s a curiosity thing. Just what does”ragga punk” sound like?
And before you music geeks say “The Clash! The Clashplayed reggae punk!” keep in mind that Skindred is not punkin the classical sense. The Ramones are punk. The Sex Pistols arepunk. Skindred is contemporary punk — devoid of allinnovation, derivative of every other “punk” act aroundand only as rebellious as the record label will allow. The reggaeelement is a new twist, but in the end it’s the same oldrecycled thing. Only harder to understand.
Before we begin, I just want to say that I was disappointed tofind that this album was not, in fact, an album by the bandHandsome Devil. A friend introduced me to Handsome Devil a fewyears back and I thought they were pretty good, so I was excited tosee the words “Handsome Devil” on the top of my stackof promo CDs. But no — it was not to be. That’s strikeone. I know it’s not Jim Bianco’s fault, but I’mgoing to put it down anyway.
I’m not quite sure what kind of music Jim Bianco plays.It’s a bit country, it’s a bit acoustic, it’s abit swing. The music itself isn’t so bad. It’s not mycup of tea, but hey, there isn’t much that is.
What gets me riled is lead singer Jim Bianco’s voice.It’s hard to put my finger on what about his voice grates meso, but suffice it to say that he has an annoying voice. Ifyou’ve seen Team America, you might remember the song”Freedom Isn’t Free,” with that incrediblystereotypical-sounding country singer. Jim Bianco’s singingvoice reminds me of that. His over-pronounced accent, his breathy,gravelly intonations, his exaggerated pronounciations… allof them combine forces to lead an assault against the beachheadbunker of my ear.
Some people might dig it, but I’ve heard it done beforeand done better to boot. The devil is in the details, and thisdevil is far from handsome.