The Slackers – U.L.U., London

By paul

Saturday 8 May 2010
O2 Academy, Islington
Support: The Skints + Dirty Revolution

Short changed. An odd way to start a review of one of the best value-for-money bands around, but that?s the feeling at the end of the night. Well, the evening. Scheduled to play for just 75 minutes, The Slackers have actually gone over that just a little, but it still feels as though the New Yorkers have barely dipped a toe in the vast ocean of a back catalogue. Don?t get me wrong, 75 minutes is more than enough time for nearly any band out there, but The Slackers are just something else, and tonight even the band is a little perturbed by the 22:00 curfew (that?s not stage time, that?s everybody out of the building time). That?ll be London club nights then. Oh the joy. So that short changed feeling is levelled entirely at the venue, and not the band. Rant over; on with the review.

Punktastic manages to fail miserably with the early doors policy and arrives midway through openers DIRTY REVOLUTION, although the number of times we?ve bumped into the band this month it?s hard not to look stalkerish; the ink?s not even dry on the restraining order. A fair sized flock of early birds watches the Cardiff quartet bash out some feel-good reggae ska, not a bad prelude to our headliner. Incidentally, the duo playing steel drums outside Angel tube station should have been cajoled for the calypso vibed ?Feel the Fear?.

THE SKINTS have been a little quiet since the Rebel Alliance tour wrapped up in February, but it?s plain to see what the East London quartet has been up to since. This evening?s set is packed with new songs. New songs! It?s barely six months since the band released a debut album, and now we?re treated to more newbies. A brave move but one that?s sold by the quality of the material. There seems to be a definite move toward the reggae end of the spectrum, with the raucous punk rock aspect of the band seemingly taking a back seat. Look at the swaying crowd and you can see it?s not a bad move. Innovative and exciting, The Skints might just be the best band around. Scratch that. There?s no might about it.

Paul summed it up nicely in his recent review of ?The Great Rocksteady Swindle?, the latest offering from THE SLACKERS, when he said the band has outlived a ska revival about three times, yet never really managed to get the success it deserves. Well success might not have come in gold records and the riches of a small country but the near capacity crowd tonight pays out in adoration and dance skills (although skill is such a subjective word). It?s no exaggeration to say that the room is dancing, front to back (Punktastic knows the two girls suspectly dancing at the very back).

On stage it?s vintage Slackers, with the sextet serving up tune after tune, and looking pretty dapper whilst doing so. ?Watch This? (perhaps the band?s biggest song) gets an early outing, whilst ?Everyday is Sunday? sounds particularly decent tonight. From the new LP (which isn?t pillaged all that much considering it?s brand new), ?Bo Evil? stands out, a boisterously danceable number spearheaded by trombonist Glen Pine?s (relatively) aggressive vocal stylings, whilst an instrumental cover of ?Ain?t No Sunshine? brings that ?where do I know this one from?? look to a fair few faces. It?s a fair cover but it?s the band?s rendition of Sam Cooke?s ?Cupid? that still stands tall in a set that includes not one duff song.

That?s what makes it so hard to traipse out of the venue so early. We?ve been indulged, but like the proverbial gannet, the appetite?s not been sated. I guess previous shows have spoiled. Those split set shows. Those late nighters. Even Vic Ruggiero?s near three-hour solo night at the Brixton Windmill last year. By continually shining through, The Slackers make you want more, and then a little bit more. Sometimes though, you don?t get what you want. Still, a fantastic performance is a fantastic performance, and that?s what Islington gets this evening.

Alex Hambleton