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Posted on November 13th, 2012 (1:30 pm) by Ben Welton

Great Britain has a long and varied history with the importation of music. As another aspect of the now dead British Empire, the collection of foreign sounds in the port of London helped to increase the popularity of so-called “Orientalism” in Victorian society. After the war our grandfathers fought ended, Britain saw an influx of what were previously called colonials on their shores and working in their factories. Some reacted to this development along the lines of Enoch Powell, while others took on the cultural sensibilities of these recently-arrived immigrants. In particular, working-class whites in London, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham adopted the close-cropped hair and ska sounds of Jamaican rude boys, thus becoming skinheads. Despite the “Spirit of ’69,” the late seventies and the early eighties were the real flourishing point for British skinhead music, with ska acts such as Madness and The Specials and oi! punks like The 4 Skins and The Angelic Upstarts.

Now, this isn’t just some lame history lesson — far from it. This isn’t even really history per se; for, many current British (and to be fair, many American, Canadian, and Australian) groups carry on this legacy of class-based musical multiculturalism. King Porter Stomp, a notoriously energetic sextet from Brighton — a town famously known as a seaside resort and as the murderous home-port of Pinkie Brown - eclectically mix African-derived rhythms and sounds with the rocksteady syncopation of reggae and the lyrical wizardry of rap. Shuffle, King Porter Stomp’s most recent release, is a good display of the band’s multicolored complexity in an otherwise piebald world. King Porter Stomp (a name taken from a Glenn Miller song from 1938) recognize their own uniqueness on “Hot Coals,” a song conjuring up a world of a musical graveyard entirely composed of graying ashes.

It’s hard not to see some semblance of cockiness in “Hot Coals,” but generally speaking, King Porter Stomp are all about encouraging an egalitarian ethos of easy going days and good music. “The Shuffle,” the album’s title track, is a paean to living slower than the rat race surrounding us. Other tracks take on more politically aware matters, with “Let It All Out” coming the closest to the same punkesque ideals that can be found on such NYHC standards as “Stand Still” by Gorilla Biscuits. There is certainly a punk quality to King Porter Stomp, but instead of embracing abrasiveness, Shuffle is incredibly accessible. Songs such as “The Last Bat Train to Cuba” (which is eerily similar to “Night Boat to Cairo” by Madness) and “Breathless” are easily digestible even for those who have disgustedly constricted constitutions. This quality in King Porter Stomp is their most commendable; concurrently, it is also their most obnoxious.

Shuffle presents interesting musical ideas filtered through standard production and playing never getting beyond achieving par. While certain acts such as Mayer Hawthorne and The County manage to be both intellectually intriguing and sonically engaging, King Porter Stomp rely on brilliant lyrics to move along with music easily found in an elevator or a waiting room. The steady smoothness of tracks like “Breathless” and “The Shuffle” is infectious and it provides a fail-safe mechanism for those tracks attempting to be a little more bombastic. “Mileage,” a ditty featuring MC Elemental, might be off-putting for some, and the ska-tinged funk energy and overt politics of “Less Fortunate” likewise sounds dislocated on Shuffle, a record that will probably only appeal to Anglophiles.

Shuffle is a good record all-in-all. The atmosphere of fun pervading Shuffle is a fantastic contrast to the boring seriousness of most independent releases these days. Shuffle deftly showcases a band working inside and outside of the studio - Shuffle is a decent introduction. And although its British-ness might rub those obsessed with 1776 wrong, Shuffle is another one of those records meant for long drives or nights spent at house parties. Basically, Shuffle wants to turn your brain and your feet on. While at times it presents less than stellar compositions, Shuffle will more than likely stay free from the “I hate this record” category for almost anyone.

Track List
1.The Shuffle
2.Mileage (featuring MC Elemental)
3.Thick and Thin
4.Breathless
5.Let It All Out
6.Less Fortunate
7.The Last Bat Train to Cuba
8.Hot Coals
9.Mama Needs a Hand (featuring Faye Houston)

Shuffle by King Porter Stomp
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

73 / 100
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