Random Hand have been around for quite a while now, having released their first EP back in 2005. They are a band that I’ve always been peripherally aware of, with my friend and some-time A&E contributor, Emily putting them on at her Ska Bar events at Retro Bar in Manchester. To be fair, by the time 2005 rolled around, I’d moved on from ska punk several years before; I had however spent what I considered (still do) an unmentionable and personally embarrassing amount of time listening to ska punk. It had been something of an escape for me from times in which I’d been bogged down in personal darkness and a pervading sense of personal seriousness. My tastes at the time more realistically ran more to EpiFat skate punk and melodic hardcore pretty much.
Anyway, there was this whole wave of UK ska punk and “wild style” ska crossover that held no interest to me at all. I’d gotten it down as white boy wannabe Juggalo nonsense and/or University Circus Society for brightly coloured wacky people to spin diablos to. I knew a bunch of people that were into it, some of them were in the bands or whatever. I’m not proud of it at all, but I definitely openly sneered at it, which was pretty uncharitable of me and doubtless immature.
These days I can think of about three ska punk records that I still play: Operation Ivy’s ‘Energy’ (Look Out Records); The Propagumbhis discography – The Rise & Fall of Nothing Much at All (on Hermit Records) and the Slapstick double LP (Asian Man Records). I don’t think that there is any special reason for this beyond changes in personal tastes and my outlook becoming I suppose more serious and darker once again. Which isn’t to say that ska punk can’t be dark or serious or whatever.
Anyway, I was approached by Joe Tilston from the band to get my thoughts and opinions on their latest release, their s/t album which came out fairly recently. True to form, I review anything that people take the trouble to send me a physical copy of, and always do my best to go into these things with an open mind. Therefore, don’t take anything in this rather lengthy intro to heart. It serves I suppose as something of a reference point to my own musical past more than anything.
First off, I’d like to say how grateful I am that this doesn’t sound anything like Capdown, whose music I fucking despise to this day, the utter turn of the century turd of a band that they were. I don’t begrudge them their success but I still kind of object to the fact that they appeared as support on what seemed like every chuffin’ support slot going for years. They bored me to tears every single time after the first one, which didn’t excite me all that much.
I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff about this record that I like. I’ll try to put these things into some form of coherent thought; although I’ll no doubt be using frames of reference that have been out of date for about 25 years. The bands that I’d take as staples of the UK scene for this type of stuff, like King Prawn, Sonic Boom Six and Adequate Seven and all those type of bands, I just found either awfully turgid, and in one case, Mancunians putting on Essex accents and rapping (sorry Barney). Suffice to say, I wasn’t feeling any of that stuff I heard at all. I really don’t understand what compels people making this type of music to often slide into some weird Mockney nonsense.
Looking now at the contents of this record, I feel like there’s a lot more going on. The band are not tying themselves down to one set way of doing things. This is something I think is necessary for any band that is pushing themselves to evolve and improve. It showcases a synergy of ideas and influences into a versatile arsenal of songs. Yes, this record does have a boatload of bouncy, chirpy danceable ska parts. However, these are typically bookended by a rhythmic, pummeling quality that weirdly puts me in mind of stuff from the first couple of Turnstile records or Sick Of It All; or often by crunching, knuckle-scraping yet rapid riffage that would have felt at home on some of those early classic Pennywise LPs.
The only real lowpoint on the album for me is the rap style attack on the verses of XY. It’s not for me, and I feel like it sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb. The gnarly wazzock swatting belligerence of the chorus kind of makes up for it, though.
I feel like I’ve been genuinely surprised by this album to be honest. There’s some really great songs on here, like ‘Dead Weight’ for instance, which is my top cut here. It’s overall been a pretty enjoyable listen to be fair. I really like how the chirpy bouncy interludes get used like a spring board into some genuinely great back section propelled balls out punk rock with a splash of At The Drive-In style post hardcore (before they made their rubbish and underwhelming comeback). The back section in this band is as burly as fuck and pack a surprisingly pulverizing punch.
Tony of Nurgle rating: 8/10
You can check out some cuts from this album on the player below: