Rare is the single which features the better of two tracks on its B-side, but such is undeniably the case when it comes to Booze & Glory‘s “London Skinhead Crew” 12-inch single. This time out, the London-based punk band unlaces its collective boots a bit and presents a reggae-infused impression of their excellent call-to-arms anthem, “London Skinhead Crew” before going ahead and presenting the album cut of the same song on the B-side.
Lots of bands are capable of rearranging their music to fit a ska or reggae paradigm (NOFX and Rancid are only the largest examples of bands who have pulled it off), but Booze & Glory isn’t really one of them. Like it or not, B&G need the energy and aggression which is normally present in their sound to make it translate best; the horns and piano which open and then proceed to dominate the song feel instantly kitschy and cheesy, and the more methodical tempo proves not to be something that the band wears particularly well on this occasion. In fact, when singer Mark RSK breaks into the mix, he sounds bored and frustrated from note one.
Overall, the ska/reggae version of “London Skinhead Crew” just sort of limps along and, while the pub-punk lyrical hook of ”forever blowing bubbles” sounds and feels great in the right context, it just feels novel and sort of foolish in THIS context. It’s unfortunate, but that doesn’t make it untrue.
Happily, the album cut of “London Skinhead Crew” does indeed appear on the B-side of the single and redeems the release. There, all of the elements which are capable of making a great Booze & Glory song are present and in place: the guitars have a perfect crunch, the vocal has both a great spit as well as a solid swagger and the drums propel the whole thing from hook to hook perfectly. Listeners will find that, for about three minutes, Booze & Glory own their hearts, souls and minds; the band pulls listeners along with a great guitar line, but the vocals ensure that they’re held tightly as lines like, “’Cause we’ve got nothin’ else to do/ London Skinhead Crew/ scars, tattoos, crombie coats, full of trouble/ We grew up on dead-end streets/ Lack of teeth – full of dreams/ Drinking beer and forever blowing bubbles” COMMAND a singalong. Phrases like, “It’s glorious” or “Essential listening” don’t begin to articulate how good this song is and, when it runs out, listeners will be left glowing from the experience and hungry for more.
They may indeed be hungry, but of course they’ll have to wait for something more substantial because its A-side counterpart is a pale representation by comparison. It may sound cruel, but that’s the reason this “London Skinhead Crew” single is worthwhile: the single only gives up as much gold as it NEEDS TO in order to get listeners excited (one song and a great, novel, die-cut pressing) and then leaves them hanging. Some critics might call that cruel, but it also makes an easy case for brilliance.
The “London Skinhead Crew” single is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press. www.piratespressrecords.com/store/12-inches-c-1_6/new-booze-glory-london-skinhead-crew-12-diecut-p-1132.html