added: 3 Dec 2013
// release date: 26 Nov 2013 // label: Mad Butcher Records
reviewer: Daniel Davidson-Amadi
Umbrella Bed have taken Ska to a whole new level at which they thrive and diversify from the once popular style. Described as ‘2Tone Ska’, ‘Refill’ is an album that utilises the roots of the plucky two-step genre that was extremely popular in Britain once, and gives it an uptempo punky edge that again makes you reminisce of outrageous haircuts and Dr Martens. Inherently, this is like a lot of records you’ve heard from the likes of Madness and The Beat which is essentially Pop on these isles but is considered a very niche market over in the States. This is third wave ska that has infiltrated the alternative music scene of Minneapolis, Minnesota and is completely divergent from the commercial sensibilities of the genre’s roots. In fact, one of the songs off the album, ‘Two Toned Monster’, makes a reference to the music scene of that world, proclaiming that they should embrace the good vibes instead of marginalising it through fear of something different.
As you would expect with a Ska record, ‘Refill’ is born out of simple instrumentation; a few guitars and trumpets leading the way while lead singer, Hellrock, who somewhat incongruously sounds a little like Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, regales us with his mordant views on love and love for the music this band are synonymous for.
Reggae, Latin influences and even swing have been thrown into the heady mix then invigorated by the band’s enthusiasm and energy to bring to us an album that is energetic, entertaining and suitable for those who just love listening to awesome music with a very Caribbean lilt. It’s a short album but not in entertainment value. A major downer is that the album offers no songs that are longer than 3 minutes, which is symptomatic of the frenetic pace at which the band perform. Because of this, each song is jammed onto the highest gear and there’s no time for a change up in speed which would have given ‘Refill’ a little more variety. Still, this is a great record to have you on your feet, unconsciously shedding some serious calories, so this issue is both a gift and a curse that Umbrella Bed are just going to have to bear.
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