Skaburbian Collective – This Is Reggae Rock
One of the things that make ANY music, not just reggae one of the unquestionably greatest inventions of humankind is the variety within your specific genre of choice. People like myself who listen to literally all types of music (sorry classical!) find themselves like a kid in an ’80s arcade with $5.00 in his pocket when in a listening mood. Driven by my frame of mind at that moment, what I reach for could possibly considered old school, new school, or a sub-genre of my choice. As for reggae, any reggae-vibes.com fan, who may have read a Yankee Nupe review, can usually ascertain that I LOVE classic roots reggae and rocksteady perhaps a dab more than other types of chune. That’s not to say I can’t derive infinite joy from an entirely dancehall, one-drop, or rock-influenced ragga session should my tastes delve that deep. However, I often find myself overly critical of the last of those options, being that in my personal experience, it lacks the soul that’s so integral to the music. While the groups finding success in this arena are generally talented musically, the resulting vibe is many times a mish-mosh of ska, rock, and roots reggae running the gamut of good, to WTF is this crap?!
Skaburbian Collective, one of the torch bearers of this movement, hail from Lulea, Sweden and have built a growing and loyal fan base, largely on the strength of their critically acclaimed live shows. Four albums deep thus far, their fifth studio album This Is Reggae Rock seeks to keep their momentum going and perhaps elevate themselves to Soja status, the Virginia group that set the reggae world abuzz (both negatively and positively) with a Grammy win in 2021 for album of the year. Opening the album is a decent first offering with King Of The Stage. Heavily deluged with head-pounding drums, double guitars and an organ straight out of the Doors’ storage closet, it no doubt sets the tone for about what I expected. The lead singer, a gent by the name of Emma, is certainly suited for this type of music. His singing style packs heft, but is not a voice that’ll make you forget Freddie McGregor any time soon. Carrying this style over subsequent cuts I Told You, and Recall, the Collective fall well short of generating any excitement or prompting me to remind myself to listen to any of their prior albums in the need to get caught up. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find a song on this album I’d be willing to call a favorite or even listen to a second or third time. To their credit, they speak of the same type of themes that drive reggae music, zest for life, (Boy Or Dog) the uplift of humanity, (Children Of Men) and the challenging of the status quo (There Is No War In Basingse), but don’t give me nearly enough musically, which is the whole point.
Skaburbian Collective have clearly thrived and made a decent enough sized impact in the reggae-rock game. They’ve been booked at some of the most known reggae festivals worldwide such as Sweden’s Uppsala, and Germany’s Color of Beat, so far be it for someone like myself who’s just gotten his first taste of the bass from this group to dismiss their talent. But because I’m naturally harder on this sub-genre of reggae due to it being my least favorite, I can’t give S.C. so much as a thought if I were to for some reason want to hear it over some Abyssnians, Tarrus Riley, or even some Popcaan. If I’m going anywhere near reggae-rock, I’d rather reach for Rebelution, Iya Terra, or even some harder bands like 311 or Sublime, all of whom are infinitely more entertaining than Skaburbian Collective. Continued success to these dudes, big up to Sweden (would actually LOVE to do Uppsala one day) but I just can’t in all fairness consider This is Reggae Rock, as anything other than a chance for me to exercise my review chops. Soja can comfortably cross off one band from the list of contenders. I’m pretty sure of it.