Review: New Town Kings – Reach Out

We have a new album from Ska-reggae collective New Town Kings! After touring and performing relentlessly, this is the 8-piece’s first musical offering for some time. Following on from their debut, the Kings proceeded with ‘M.O.J.O’ in 2011 which consisted of fast pace upbeat weighty based driven Ska music. This set the tone for what followed.

By Liam Monaghan

2014 saw personnel changes and the release of ‘Pull Up & Rewind’ – a four-track EP packed to the brim with energy and class. New frontman Dabs Bonner took little time in introducing himself to the New Town Kings faithful by putting his own unique stamp on their signature sound. This EP demonstrates just a small selection of their attacking arsenal, with tracks ranging from mellow, chilled-out reggae reminiscent of Gregory Isaacs, to upbeat Summer-fuelled ska of a similar vein to The Specials.

Hailing from New Town, Colchester – the New Town Kings’ modern twist on classic Jamaican music has seen them tour the country and play with the likes of The Skints and US reggae legends The Aggrolites to name a few.

The nine-piece have rarely taken it easy it when it comes to travelling the world with their own brand of ska, having clocked up over 500 shows across 10 different countries since their formation. Their punk-rock ethic and extensive touring schedule has seen them perform at the likes of Boomtown Fair, Secret Garden Party, The HMV Forum and a whole host more.

The New album Reach Out is the New Town Kings coming back in full force delivering quality new Ska/Reggae music whilst welcoming the likes of Sylford Walker to feature on one of the tracks. The majority of these tracks tick the boxes of what the NTK actual sound is. Music videos are already on Youtube and extensive touring has begun.

Reach Out
Title track from the album kicks us off on this journey of British Reggae and Ska and what a start it is! The riddim consists a an upbeat tempo with some wicked drumming patterns and horns throughout the chorus just giving that authentic feel whilst the bass line wanders around and keys. Dab’s has an interesting voice which can stretch from one end of the scale to the other but in this track its a subtle tone throughout with a choppy delivery occasional which makes an interesting and uplifting track!

A hot topic around the world for the last few years and more so in the UK very recently with the likes of Brexit, is immigration/migration. NTK highlight throwing people out of the country in the name of her majesty which is an interesting swipe as many artists do seem to steer away from the royal hierarchy in recent times, not that the queen is sat with her sound system giving a care what people are saying but still theres some interesting concepts and view points from NTK.

Why you Always
SKA Ska Ska! One thing that NTK does really well is nail the concept and creation of SKA music, upbeat, vibrant and high energy of course. Why you always take and never give back, you take all my money and never give back, you’ve got me living in a shack’ pretty much sums up this record as the persona sounds like a massive pain to deal with. The discussion over a fruitful riddim gives us a easy listen!

British Summer
When I saw the title of this record I automatically it was going to be 3 minutes of rain fall with the sounds of sheer disappointment, however I was wrong. Keeping that Ska feel throughout the record with that upbeat strumming and wicked percussion sets the pace for a tie easy listening record from NTK. We have to salute the horn/brass players on this record, some serious solo work in the middle of the track really gives us something different to experience.

Deep Water
My favourite record from the album, its upbeat, subtle, suave and enjoyable. If you check an interview with lead singer Dabs (Link at the bottom) he discusses the personal element throughout this track for one of the band members specifically. The harmonies flow nicely in the right places and the riddim is fresh and keeps us interested. Having seen this song performed live, its a body mover!

When I asked Dabs about this track, he simply said the guys hadn’t done a song simply about music. The track is a tone down from previous records we’ve heard so far but its basically a salute to music and the importance of it in our lives. Dabs talks about music and the components that go into tracks, quite a simple song but an easy listen.

Back to upbeat Ska rudeness with Francine. The track is simple from what I can pull from it, our man is trying to get Francines attention! I really enjoy the story telling in the NTK music, setting up scenes and emotions and this track really highlights the song writing ability of the guys. The bass in this track is brilliant and on a good speaker automatically makes your foot tap, good luck trying to stop it. Nice tune!

Burn Babylon Ft Sylford Walker
Its incredibly welcomed to see Sylford Walker featuring on this remake of his Burn Babylon which you’ll find on a 7” Joe Gibbs record across the internet and stores. NTK being as musical as they are figured the riddim out and started to play whilst adding their own touch. The riddim hasn’t changed dramatically however its great to hear Sylford back on the riddim.

Long Long Road
The message in this track is have faith and make that push to what you want to do regardless of the road ahead. The track is a nice track with quite a simple message but the message is clear. Theres a wicked guitar solo throughout the middle of the track and the harmonies throughout the track give a nice change up from some of the earlier tracks on the album.

Coconut Water
As someone who’s never tried coconut water due too an allergy, I hope I was going to actually get this track. Luckily this track isn’t describing the refreshing taste of coconut water but actually this is one of the most uplifting tracks on the album! Free living and the basics in life is the message here fruit from the ground and positivity Is the theme. The riddim is vibrant and this is the tune for summer, the live element of this record will be awesome to see.

The Hawk
The Hawk is unlike other tracks we’ve heard so far, simply because its instrumental. I love riddims and I’m a huge fan of The Skatatilites, I hear them in this track. I assume this will be the show opener throughout summer and who can blame then, it would be impossible not to move, cider in hand and have a skank. Wicked drumming, big baseline, hair raising saxophone with some mad percussion really cement this as the party track of the album.

Fine Fine Fine
As we reach near the end of the album we come down a little from the hype of The Hawk and have a breather. We Welcome Dabs back and everything fine fine fine! This track is the crowd participation song at live gigs for sure. The track is nice, all the NTK hallmarks of a riddim, positive lyrics throughout which tee’s us up for the album finale.

Having learned what this track is about, its important to really listen and get yourself into a headspace to follow the lyrics. The track has tones of UB40 and the more relaxed style of Reggae than Ska sound. The album needed this finish and I’m glad that we got it, it shows a different side of NTK and their musical process.

Truly a fantastic album and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the band play over the summer. The high energy from the guys is really what you need for a gig/festival and you cant help but walking away and feeling not only knacked from dancing but a fan. The production is crystal clear and the one collaboration was a sensible, great work. Hear Dabs discuss making of the album here

Tour Dates
May 18th – High Wycombe – Pheonix Bar
May 19th – Colchester Arts Centre
May 25th – Derby – Hairy Dog
May 26th – Dorset – Cursus Festival
May 27th – Guildford – Suburbs
June 8th – Ashford – The Junction
June 29th – Ipswich – The Swan