“My, how you’ve grown.” Most childhoods are littered with this and similar proclamations from elderly relatives and, for most, the only appropriate response is to look coyly at one’s shoes, wishing the moment past and certainly doing absolutely nothing to allude to the phrase’s vaguely adult connotations.
But there’s nothing coy about Sonic Boom Six. This year sees the ska-punk outfit celebrate their seventh birthday with the release of their third studio album, City of Thieves. Making three studio albums is as much as most bands dare aspire to but this particular milestone is no simple tick in the box for the Manchester group.
Released on the band’s own label, Rebel Alliance Recordings, Back 2 Skool is the second single taken from City of Thieves following July’s The Concrete We’re Trapped Within. Sandwiched between the two single releases have been European tour dates and the small matter of opening the main stage at Leeds and Reading festivals.
In so many ways, 2009 is a proving to be landmark year for Sonic Boom Six as the band continues to grow in both stature and pedigree. The sound of City of Thieves balances the anti-establishment adolescent angst of punk with a depth that only seven years on the road and two prior albums can bring and the Back 2 Skool release reflects this musical maturity.
The lead track is a masterclass in urban sassiness – a gritty 21st century counterpart to Madness’s schoolyard classic Baggy Trousers and containing all of Sonic Boom Six’s trademark energy. Guitars rhyme and bounce and fight with the percussion for playground bragging rights whilst Laila K’s unmistakable voice crowns the heady mix. Second track, The Dangers of Rock’n'Roll, is classic SB6; a casual marriage of ska influences and punk rock sensibilities bursting with life, flavour and urban knowhow.
The third song on the CD is an acoustic offering and it is a gem. Floating Away is neatly constructed, effortlessly delivered and is also the final track of City of Thieves. It joins Back 2 Skool and the Dangers of Rock’n'Roll in around ten minutes of music which eloquently illustrates the depth and skill embodied in Sonic Boom Six.
In these ten minutes, there is light and dark, love and hate, crashing breakers and still waters. All the colours of the rainbow are here and the band’s legendary appetite for hard work and harder partying seems to be paying off with music of resonance and consequence.
Sonic Boom Six have outlived so many contemporaries, in Manchester and far beyond, and signs are there’s yet better to come. My, how they’ve grown.