Ska/Punk practitioners, The Talks are releasing their first full length album, Commoners, Peers, Drunks and Thieves on November 24, 2014.  The young group is following up their well received 2013 EP Westsinister.  That EP yielded  Can’t Stand the Rain and Friday Night. The group has built a sizable UK following with a relentless live touring schedule including dates throughout the UK and Europe.  The tour has seen them featured on the main stage at numerous festivals including; This is Ska, Mighty Sounds and The RebellionThe Talks formed three years ago and its members hail from Hull, Yorkshire. The Talks members include; Pat Pretorius vocalist, saxophone and guitar, Jody Moore vocals, guitars and keyboards, Iain “Easy” Allen on Bass and Richard “Titch” Lovelock on drums.  Together they are an electrifying live band, now attempting to catch the lightning of live performance on vinyl.

In some ways Ska and Reggae have seemed to be the red headed stepchildren of rock music.  Every so often the genre leaks into the establishment rock world. The most recent incarnation of Ska tinged bands included Rancid, Sugar Ray and No Doubt. The Talks is most accurately classified as Ska/punk.  Ska/punk is a recently established subgenre and a manifestation of traditional Ska/Reggae fused with punk rock. The subgenre contains the structures of traditional ska and adds a faster tempo and more guitar distortion. The Talks is quite apt at bouncing from Ska/ punk through traditional Ska, Reggae and even to Ska/core.

The Talks are trying single handily to bring Ska/Reggae to the masses.  Commoners, Peers, Drunks and Thieves is a smorgasbord of catchy tunes.  Well crafted engaging songs that fit extraordinarily well within the confines of Ska structural boundaries.  The band deserves credit for their efforts, as it can be daunting to create something fresh in a genre that is somewhat limited when attempting experimentation. The Talks bring energy and excitement to the release and exhibit great skill in showing off all the tools that are available to utilize within the Ska genre.

Don’t Look Behind You is a radio friendly song with a catchy chorus that will remind listeners of bands like Madness and The Beat, who brought Ska/Reggae into the pop culture of the  early and mid 80’s.  The following song Radio has great energy and is a fun song that can make the sun seem like it is shining even on a gloomy day.  Again this song harkens back to The Beat and other quintessential pop reggae bands of the early eighties. Apparently a break up song Tear Us Apart is a song with a more modern Ska/Punk approach that the first two songs.  It has cleaner instrumentation and vocals, I love the mouth organ. It is one of the best songs on the album.

All of the songs on the album have a definite energy and drive.   The Talks twists and turns the structures of Ska/Reggae to create an atmosphere that will make you want to pogo around the room.   The band seems to effortlessly skate across the genre picking out the best and most recognizable sounds and making them work on the record. Songs like Ceasefire Ft Itch feature the classic “toasting” singing of protest Ska, In Light Up, which is not about lighting up some herb, but is instead a sweet love song, again traditional reggae influences are reflected. The song Tune In serves up Speed Ska.  There is a dizzying array of sounds and instruments within the songs, and sprinkled throughout you will find, saxophones and horns, and Hammond organs galore.  The lyrics range from heart felt love songs with self deprecating lyrics such as on Sam, to protest lyrics on Ceasefire Ft Itch.  The band successfully caroms from style to style without a hitch.

The members of The Talks know their Ska.  The band is skilled beyond their years in using all the weapons of the Ska/Reggae arsenal very aptly on this release.  I think that the next challenge is whether the band will want to stay within the confines of Ska or expand out of the genre. It has been done by other groups such as The Beat, and No Doubt, who seem to have influenced the group.  Both the aforementioned bands were successful in marrying Ska/Reggae to a more approachable mainstream pop sound.   The band certainly has the energy and verve to break through. The release is a nice gateway for listeners who are unfamiliar with Ska/Reggae, as all the fundamental elements of the genre are on display.  A solid 7/10 with an acute interest in what they will do next go round.

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