SixNationState’s eponymous debut album is a delight. The sound of this Reading-based five-piece has been described as both ‘gypsy punk’ and ‘ska rock’, and the band compared to the likes of The Specials and The Coral, but whatever label or comparison makes you happy, this is genuinely feelgood music performed with infectious enthusiasm.
Though they’ve been on the scene for two or three years, they really started making waves at the end of 2006 when they signed for a revitalised Jeepster – a vote of confidence from the indie label who made their name with the likes of Belle And Sebastian and Snow Patrol but who hadn’t signed any new acts for a while. Surely SixNationState’s irresistible mix of hook-laden songs with instantly catchy choruses, underpinned by quirky lyrics and zany humour will prove to be a winning formula.
The opening song Can’t Let Go, after an extended drum intro, bursts into life with a natural energy that just takes you with it. Like the singer Gerry Del-Guercio – passionately clinging on to a compulsive relationship – we go with the flow. Keep Dancing – the band’s second single – is a gloriously upbeat track which, if it doesn’t get you dancing, must at least make you tap your feet. Caught the Sun is another joyous tune in the zany Zutons mould, while Taking Me Over grips you in its fast and furious adrenalin rush.
The haunting dub sound of I Hate the Summer, with its plaintive melodica and echoing ska beat, is reminiscent of The Specials‘ Ghost Town, while Everybody Wants To Be My Friend suggests the Two Tone band too – they are also two of the strongest tracks on the album. So Long is an impressively edgy farewell love song, with the third single, the regretful Where Are You Now?, a puzzled questioning over lost friendship.
The breakneck speed of Up and Down leaves you gasping for breath, counterpointed by the beautifully gentle Don’t Need You Anymore, in which the singer confidently moves on with his life. Blow Your Mind is more spikey, but current single We Could Be Happy is the most romantic song on the album, a yearning, uplifting rhapsody on love: “We could be happy if we try/ We could be happy yeah you and I/ We’ll chase the stars out of the sky.”
The final, ‘hidden’ track (surely we’ve been there and done that now, but I guess it’s like an encore at a gig that you know is coming) is well worth waiting for. Much more than an ‘extra’, it’s a riotous seven-minute ska jam where the band really let their hair down, with several false endings as if they can’t bear to stop – and you don’t want them to either.
Producer Iain Gore harnesses well SixNationState’s manic energy without smoothing out their spontaneous, rough appeal (as he did with Larrikin Love‘s first album The Freedom Spark last year). Del-Guercio’s full-throated passionate vocals, with strong chant-like backing from the rest of the band, make a big impact – they really sound like they’re having fun. Thirteen excellent songs played in a refreshingly up-tempo, off-beat style must make this amongst the contenders for one of the best debut albums of 2007.