Filthy Militia – Innocent Until Proven Filthy

Growing up in the late seventies / early eighties as I did, I hit the punk / Two Tone movement square on. Being from the ‘good’ side of the tracks, my friends and I naturally gravitated towards the ska revival movement of Two Tone for several reasons: it was happier and more accessible to us; we were a mixed-race group and the message of inclusion and what would now be termed ‘anti-fascism’ was at our core; and none of us had mothers who would let us grow mohawks.

As such, I love finding new artists whose roots and influences lie in the same place, and North London-based Filthy Militia are one such band.

Their debut EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, dropped into the inbox this week. So I was looking forward to a return to my youth and evenings spent arguing the relative values of The Specials against Madness, The Selecter against The Beat.

What I got was something different – a set of tracks which seemed to find their base more in the heady days of Jamaican Ska than it’s rougher, punk-influenced offspring, but with a definite nod towards the punk-inspired bands I grew up with. There’s a lot more brass than we got in the revival, where guys like Saxa and Rico sometimes felt more like an affectation than an integral part of the sound. Here there’s no mistaking the excellent stabs and fills.

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We start with Up In Smoke, an energetic blast which is very danceable and jaunty. Storm Warning is slightly darker, with hints of The Clash, and is probably the closest to the revival sound. Be Real takes you right back to the Sixties with it’s laid back vibe hinting at Prince Buster’s pace and attitude. Finally, Little Sister keeps us firmly in the decade of my birth, with even a suggestion of California surf thrown into the Caribbean mix.

For a four-track EP, Filthy Militia have managed to convey four very different elements of ska, and as such they show their versatility and knowledge of the genre. Certainly if I find myself in their neck of the woods, I’d seek out a gig.

For more information, go to their Facebook page at facebook.com/filthymilitia/ and give them a like!

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Blondie : Parallel Lines

The first of an ongoing classic album series, we’re taking you back to the heady days of 1978….

It hardly seems possible that Parallel Lines was released nigh on 40 years ago.  Just one look at the album cover, and a skim through the track listing, makes the tunes spring into your mind, as fresh as yesterday.

Fronted by the beautiful Debbie Harry and delivering a wholly eclectic mix of styles (pop, punk, disco, reggae, rap), Blondie’s music became instantly recognisable, and Parallel Lines, their third studio album, helped them break into the elusive but lucrative US market.

Rather than wax lyrically that much, let’s skip to the track listing (* denotes a singles release) :

  1. Hanging On The Telephone *
  2. One Way or Another *
  3. Picture This *
  4. Fade Away and Radiate
  5. Pretty Baby
  6. I Know But I Don’t Know
  7. 11:59
  8. Will Anything Happen?
  9. Sunday Girl *
  10. Heart of Glass *
  11. I’m Gonna Love You Too *
  12. Just Go Away

Of the singles, only I’m Gonna Love You Too failed to make an impression, but then a Blondie cover of a Buddy Holly original is maybe pushing eclectic just too far.

The others? You may well be singing them now.

The US markets lapped them up, making Heart Of Glass the band’s first US number 1, an achievement that they repeated a further three times over the next three years. Add to that six UK number 1 hits and success across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Blondie had made it. The album,┬áproduced by Mike Chapman, harnessed the raw emotion of their first two albums (Blondie and Plastic Letters) and helped them bridge the gap between new-wave edginess and financially viable pop stardom.

The rest (as they say) is history…