Broke my hibernation last night to trek across the downs and catch Swindon’s Skandals play the Lamb in Marlborough; well worth the effort……
“Some proper drum and bass,” yelled frontman of The Skandals, Mark Colton during the break of a Bad Manners’ Special Brew cover, “not like the shit the kids listen to today!” In essence there’s the summary of The Skandals’ ethos, yet with the catchiness of the simple offbeat of ska, you’ll commonly find every generation up dancing together. So, while the attitude is to appease the elder, skinhead, mods and scooterists, I think you’ll find generations too young to personally recall the days of yore a band like The Skandals arrest, still love it.
This was certainly true in Marlborough’s Lamb last night, as this Swindon ska cover band came to skank, with bells on. It was a squeeze in the crowd, with the aforementioned varied demographic, but none can resist the surge of retrospective ska. Limited to saxophonist Nina as the brass section, and without keyboards, this six-piece still manage to capture the spirit of the era and throw it back in your face loud and proud. I’d wager this comes from experience; the band boasting not just Nina, but both guitarists Jase and Mark, who previously played with Swindon’s legendary Skanxters, and in turn this event brings fond memories to my old watering hole, as those Skanxters skanked here during their nineties reign.
Though frontman Mark also heads a new wave punk cover band, The Rotten Aces, among other projects such as Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy. This punker angle showed through the playlist, as adroit but only subtly ‘ska’d’ covers of “Echo Beach” and the Toy Doll’s bonkers arrangement of “Nellie the Elephant,” echoed between the more archetypal tunes of Madness, The Specials, Bad Manners, et all. I wanted to quiz Mark on what he favours, but when they stated they were taking a ten-minute break, it was far more punctual than most bands!
Pigeonholing I haven’t time for, and in a hedonistic moment it matters not. Example; they covered Rancid’s Time Bomb, pioneers of the ska-punk crossover that the international third-gen ska-heads thrive on. Yet the Skandals didn’t venture over this border, delivering predominantly eighties Two-Tone they were obviously inspired by, and giving the audience diminutive verbal notations as to why, amidst the usual banter. They were lively, fun and entertaining; everything a ska band should be, and would guarantee to liven up your venue or pub. Specials covers Rat Race, Rich Girl, Little Bitch and their version of Toot’s Monkey Man being the nimblest.
It may be a timeworn formula for a ska band to cover classics like Baggy Trousers, Lip Up Fatty and Mirror in the Bathroom, but like fish n chips, it’s cliché because it never fails to thrill an audience, and The Skandals do it superbly. Interestingly, they added northern soul anthem “Tainted Love,” reggae’s “Pressure Drop” and “Chase the Devil,” into the melting pot, and choosing “Food for Thought,” as their UB40 cover is a wise move; anything post-Red Red Wine and it’s a cover band covering a cover band!
While Devizes has a thriving music scene, other than sporadic gigs from the scooter club, the pub circuit lacks ska and reggae, and you all know how I feel about that. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad. It was a delight to pay a visit to Marlborough’s Lamb again, despite remining in Wadworthshire, it’s working formula stands the test of time. “We’re quite lucky in Marlborough,” a regular informed me, rattling off the Bear’s backroom, The Wellington and Royal Oak as fond live music venues, as well as the Lamb. Yes, I nodded my acknowledgment, but when ska comes to town that’s where you’ll find me! “Let me tell about Sally Brown……”
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