There’s a fine line between tracks being cohesive and tracks being too similar, or the same in an album. The Skinner Brothers have managed to succeed with the first option (thankfully), however only just. Whilst the new album is fairly cohesive (aside from the one acoustic version of ‘Away Days’ in the middle) and portrays the sound and culture of The Skinner Brothers as gritty Londoners, I am just a little bit disappointed that there are only four new songs.
These are ‘1000 Reasons Why’, ‘Give It All To Me’, ‘Stupid Much?’, and ‘Way Too Far.’ ‘Stupid Much?’, the lead single of the album, features twice – once alone and once featuring Teef, a “Nigerian born, and Hackney raised rap journeyman.” At first, I was confused about the need for two versions of ‘Stupid Much?’, but I actually think it works. I really like the version featuring Teef, even more so than without his feature – the rhymes work seamlessly with the tone of the song. It is also perfectly placed as the final song of the album, making for a solid finish.
Aside from this, the album is 13 songs long with a running time of less than 40 minutes. I would usually say this is a bit short, but I actually think given the nature of the songs it works well.
Soul Boy, Vol 1 was released in 2020 and this album was a lot slower and less intense – I’m almost tempted to say it would be featured in some sad boy hours playlists. Soul boy II is quite the contrast, in the best way possible.
The album starts off with ‘Mountain High’, a song already released in 2021’s EP Culture Non-Stop. This track sets the tone for the rest of the album and conveys the stark contrast to Soul Boy, Vol 1. The lyrics and vocals embody the London grit which The Skinner Brothers brand themselves around. This song is perfectly placed as an opener, with a varied pace throughout. Its heavy drumming and captivating guitar riffs engage the listener for the rest of the album.
It is followed by ‘Put Me Down as a Maybe’ which continues with the grit and grunge that this album wishes to encompass. I like this song. I remember playing it on my Fuse FM show and joking about how people who answer “maybe” to an RSVP irritate me. This track too was previously released as a single. Yet it manages to enthrall listeners by not relying solely on the vocals or lyrics. If anything, the instrumental arrangements and guitar licks are what stand out on this track.
The next three tracks were released on the 18th of February without any vocals.
Photo: The Skinners Brothers @ Instagram
‘M.O.R.E’ was one of the three songs released without vocals, however, it was released in the EP Iconic in 2021. This makes it even more confusing as to why the track was released in such a way. The pace of this song starts slower, especially in comparison to the previous songs. It builds at points only to slow down again and I’m left itching for it to pick up. Whilst I definitely think there needs to be a variety of paced songs on an album, I think this contrast is almost too extreme and has the danger of losing interest.
Following on is ‘Low’, another song released without vocals. The anticipation builds with drums leading the song and no lyrics until 20 seconds in. The song is typical of The Skinner Brothers, with the stop and start arrangements throughout. This was also part of the EP Iconic in 2021 and the song ends with a fading out. I don’t like how there’s no ‘end’ to the song – it feels lazy. But it glides straight into the acoustic version of ‘Away Days.’
I immediately question why there is an acoustic variation in the middle of the album. It feels a little out of place and perhaps more suited to Soul Boy, Vol 1. This isn’t to say I dislike the song or arrangement – I don’t! It just doesn’t sit right with the tone of the record. This was also released on the 18th of February without vocals but was released as part of the Iconic EP in 2021 in this exact order: ‘M.O.R.E’, ‘Low’, then ‘Away Days acoustic’).
Finally, one of the new songs, ‘1000 Reasons Why’ immediately picks up the pace, bringing high energy. The arrangement is typical of The Skinner Brothers, but they have managed to not make it sound the same as previous songs. Around the two-minute mark, the guitars go in so hard which builds up the intensity, but then it drops and it’s a bit of a let-down.
Following on is ‘Told You So’. This is a much groovier song but I’m not sure how well it follows on to ‘1000 Reasons Why.’ I think the pace slows a little bit too much, and perhaps it would have sat more comfortably among the earlier tracks of the album. This song was released on the Culture Non-Stop EP last year, but I don’t think it doesn’t necessarily add much to this album.
‘Culture Non-Stop’ brings back interest from the first few seconds, but not for long. At this point in the album, the songs and instrumentals are getting somewhat predictable. I think this song works much better alone, or on the 2021 EP, but unfortunately not on the album.
‘Give It All To Me’ is another (of the few) new songs but it blends into the album and doesn’t stand out. This was where I started questioning whether this album was cohesive or just repetitive.
‘Iconic’ blended in (like ‘Give It All To Me’). It seems that the second half of the album does not compare to its strong and powerful opening tracks. Again, it doesn’t have a definite end but a fade-out, which I’m not a huge fan of.
The fade-out, however, does work well to lead into ‘Stupid Much?’ This is the perfect example of a song that keeps the cohesiveness without trying to be the same as previous songs and arrangements. I don’t have much to say about this song except that I love it. It gives me morning-after-an-excellent-night-out vibes.
‘Way Too Far’, another new song, followed. I am curious as to why they left half of the new songs until the end of the album but it’s worth the wait. This, although not acoustic, is much better suited to the album, being a slower-paced song than ‘Away Days.’
The final song on the album is ‘Stupid Much?’ featuring Teef. As previously mentioned, I think this marks a brilliant end to the record. It’s not overdone, but slots in perfectly and gives the song something a bit different and a sense of quirkiness. The song features relatable lyrics and due to the slower pace, it ends the album perfectly without leaving the listener unhinged and with their heart racing. I had previously questioned if it was repeated too soon after the version of ‘Stupid Much?’ but I actually think it works perfectly with ‘Way Too Far’ separating the two versions.
Overall, this is an enjoyable album, but its meandering middle section and lack of new tracks make it a little disappointing, along with the technical difficulties and no vocals on three songs. But I really like the direction this album has taken The Skinner Brothers and it definitely makes me want to keep an eye out for new music.
Bearing in mind they only formed in 2018, the fact they have supported The Libertines, The Streets, and Kasabian is incredible! The Skinner Brothers are touring in March 2022, be sure to get a ticket!
You can find the album on Spotify here!