Sonic Boom Six – Kingston Peel

By paul

Sonic Boom Six
Friday 5 December 2008
Carling Academy, Islington
Support: Imperial Leisure + Babar Luck + Mouthwash + The Skints

A giant Christmas tree stands in Islington?s N1 centre. I guess it?s that time again for those obligatory reflections of the 12 months previous: what happened, who did what, how was it? For Sonic Boom Six it?s been something of an expansion year. There has been a prevalent focus on exploring new territories, first with a support tour of Reel Big Fish opening the eyes and ears of many in the UK, and then two trips to the States for some fresh meat. Tonight the band returns to the familiar with night three of a jetlagged end of year UK tour.

It?s a little bit of a slow start for The Skints but by mid-set the London quartet has found its rhythm and impresses those that have beat the impractically early start. Traversing the grounds between traditional ska and a more modern skacore sound, there?s a sense of summer that defies the downpour outside. Expertly applied and with the successful utilisation of a trio of vocals, this is a band that implores you to pay attention. (3/5)

The opening moments of Mouthwash feel like a rabbit punch in the guts following the upbeat Skints. Dark, bruising, torturous, grimy beats pulsate before being compounded by the sounds of ska. Terrific. With a set entirely made up of songs from the much delayed but finally available album True Stories, there?s a sense that this is what the band has been waiting to play for a long time. It also illuminates just how good that album is. ?That Girl? is particularly outstanding, unleashing a hook that will be stuck in your head for days. (4/5)

Eclectic. Novel. Unpredictable. Summarising King Prawn legend Babar Luck?s solo performance is no mean feat. It?s a blended mash of acoustic reggae, urban poetry, spoken word diatribes, folk stylings and even a rap breakdown. The pro-peace, unity, and love musings of an eccentric uncle, maybe. It?s all over the place, and that?s where it works. Organised chaos, maybe not. Enjoyable chaos, definitely. (3/5)

If energy had a physical form it would probably look something like the twenty-legged monster that is Imperial Leisure. From start to finish it?s a fury of bouncing, thrusting and dancing. There are even some dangerously athletic leaps between stage and security barrier. It?s easy to see why Sonic Boom Six wanted the band on this show: the fusion of punk guitars, ska horns, scratching decks and shared hip-hop vocals makes categorisation difficult, just like the headliners. It?s sort of hip-ska-hop, but that really doesn?t do justice to what is a gem of a performance. (4/5)

?Out with old, in with the new? is a phrase usually reserved for the New Year but tonight Sonic Boom Six is ahead of schedule: new album, new line-up, new set list, and new sleek onstage dress code (black and yellow if you?re keeping track). It?s a veritable blitz of newness. But for all that is new, one thing stays the same: just how good SB6 is. From opener ?Sound Of A Revolution? there?s a tightness that?s been honed over what seems like an age of solid touring. The introduction of Nick Horne (ex-Howards Alias) on second guitar beefs up the rock aspect, whilst his double duty on trombone continues to enhances all ska credentials. Tonight?s hip-hop offerings are limited to ?Tell Me Something?? and a modified version of ?Ya Basta!? (complete with guest, Babar Luck), a slight reeling in from previous tours this year. With a double album of remixes and rarities available this week, a twofold helping of ?new? songs is aired tonight. ?Play On? is an up tempo dash of slick ska, whilst ?We Wanna War? is a steady off-cut with a frenetic chorus.

The crowd response throughout is fervent: moshing, skanking, jumping, yelping, general good times to be had really. Particular preference is shown towards the well established ?Blood For Oil? and ?Piggy In The Middle?. SB6 has been welcomed warmly for years now, but it?s nice to see that at a ?bigger? venue there?s a more than respectable amount of foot traffic. That in itself is impressive when you factor in that the ?hottest new ticket in town? (The Gaslight Anthem) is playing just across town, with London favourites The King Blues no less. That?s some pretty steep competition.

Closing with ?Bigger Than Punk Rock? emphasises the feeling of the show, and the tour alongside it: 2008 is not just going to peter out; SB6 is going into 2009 with a bang. Killer bill. Killer show. (4/5)

Alex Hambleton