Tuesday, 6 November 2012

My Love Affair #3: Sonic Boom Six

My Love Affair With #3:  Sonic Boom Six (click here for The Ramones and The Who)

I was 17 in 2006, and just discovered politics, philosophy and, importantly, punk at York College.  We would rock to Sex Pistols tribute bands, UK Subs, Anti-Nowhere League gigs and battle of the bands.  One gig, watching the local streetpunk band The Mighty Boooze, led us to catch this bizarre ska-metal band.  A few months later, I went to check out that odd ska-metal band again, this time they were supporting another odd fusion outfit.  The ska-metal band were, of course, Random Hand and the band the supported were Sonic Boom Six.

I didn’t know what to make of this band.  They played to a smallish crowd, little dancing but everyone was into it.  It sounded fresh and very different, but all I bought was a poster and went away feeling impressed, if a tad puzzled.

 ♫ What'll it be like when we get older?
We can be far away from here we're going to the moon my dear.
I see the spaceman over my shoulder wave to earth and disappear ♪ 

Later that year, I hunted down their debut album, I think for £13, from HMV and gave it a spin.  From then onwards, I was hooked and tracked down the Boom from the grandest of Slam Dunk Fests to the grim little venue in Knaresborough, Daddy Cools.

The best gig that really cemented it was The Boom, The King Blues, Mouthwash and Failsafe at Joseph’s Well.  It felt packed-out, it felt electric with people singing along, dancing and I felt part of something.  I know that’s cliché, or a wishy-washy punk rhetoric, but it’s true.  The music of SB6 made me part of a special underground scene.  Made it feel like it mattered.  I don’t think I can underestimate the power of discovering a modern underground ska-punk scene.  Not a 30 year-old feature in Uncut Magazine, a real, tangible and rockin’ movement.


Oh, and I got into Uni.

I went merrily off to Leeds Uni, and interviewed them for the student radio for their Arcade Perfect tour alongside Grown At Home and The Flamin Tsunamis (did anyone else ever notice the drumsticks on that album cover made Barney look like he has antenna?).  A song from this time sticks out, September To May, which was seemingly about students feeling like their home was temporary and never committing to politics of community in their new city.  I raised points like this throughout my time at Leeds, including a seminar on David Peace. 

City of Thieves didn’t wow me at first, but the album revealed itself to me in time as a cleverly constructed masterpiece, and didn’t disappoint.  Neither did their 2011 singles, and it’s a shame Sunny Side of the Street isn’t part of their live set, nor got more acclaim from the mainstream.  Beautiful track.

♫ So forget the having all the best of what they make
And make the best of you do have ♪

Sonic Boom Six were part of my Big Three.  The King Blues, for their riotous politics and Random Hand, for their intense live show.  But SB6 were always out there as my favourite modern band.  At the time I listened to them, I was discovering my politics and my place in the world.  I was understanding how I felt about music, I was understanding how I felt about politics, and I was beginning to really try and craft my writing as a playwright and poet. 

♪ It’s not about choosing guitar or the decks, it’s going it yourself that gets the respect ♫

I can break the Boom down to having about three different styles of writing.  They will sing about:

1.       Fusing genres (Rape of Punk to Come, Bigger Than Punk Rock, All-In, New Style Rocka)

2.      Politics, community, society and nationality (Blood for Oil, Piggy In the Middle, Bang Bang Bang Bang!, For The Kids of the Multiculture, Virus, Ya Basta!, Flatline)

3.      GrownGRoTell a story about a character, often a girl (Don’t Say I Never Warned Ya, Shareena, Flower, Rum Little Skallywag, Gary Got a Gun, Sound of a Revolution, Meanwhile Back In the Real World)

There was so much wealth in their albums.  I picked out so many ideas about consumerism, war, poverty, the media etc. as well as how to craft a story.  Also, importantly, music can be fused.  I was a mod who loved punk.  Of course music was an open platter to mix and match. They (alongside The Hand) taught me the relevance of rap and hip-hop music (and Street Fighter).  In fact, I’d say SB6 were an educational band.

♫ Back in the Stone Age people worshipped The Sun and after 20,000 years you might have thought we’d have moved on ♪

So after Ben left to live abroad in America, what did I think to the new Boom?  The new writing is still very good, the songs have energy, make you want to dance and do have messages, ideas and stories all crammed within.  Their live show was still very enjoyable, they have that cheekiness live as well as understanding what makes a great gig, throws songs at the crowd until they beg for more.  In terms of the musical content, I do miss the skankability and the punkiness, but I’m giving the album time to grow on me as I have done with all albums, including SB6’s first releases.

Remember before when I said I felt part of something special with Sonic Boom Six and the ska-punk scene?  I feel that way with politics and anti-cuts action, I feel that way with the poetry scene in the UK, and the theatre scene in York.  SB6 wrote these words:

♫ So stand, be proud, of this underground that we have found: this is our sound.

Within these walls we are as one, beyond the rape of punk to come. ♪

I’ve seen SB6 so many times I’ve lost count.  Perhaps about 20ish times?  So yes, I do remember the day we caught the train on their latest track Keep On Believing.  And, yes, I do remember the legends, the bands, the gigs and the song lyrics.  And here, in 2012, as I look at this rank ConDem government hacking apart everything seemingly without resistance and the US on the verge of electing a madman like Romney, I still have faith in the music of Sonic Boom Six and what we choose to believe in.

♪ You gotta keep on believing.  Maybe all we know is there’s a world much better than this… ♫

Essential Track:  OK, so I'm afraid it's got to be a classic track, which is a shame, like I say, nothing wrong with their new work on the new album, but for me it's gotta be:
Essential rock moment:  I remember after they supported RBF and Streetlight Manifesto played Manchester Met I bumped into all three bands outside and drunkenly escorted them to Slam Dunk at the Cockpit, being sober and able to navigate Leeds.

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