“The mix of ska-punk and reggae is undeniable magic, and there is not enough of it in Scotland” ~ Fudgie McFadden (frontman of The Cherry Reds)
I first became aware of The Cherry Reds through the NHC Store, their merchandise adorns the place, and it’s eye-catching, big, bold, punchy, a pair of dancing Doc Martens and a red and black 2tone check backdrop that will alert the attention of any ska fan, and ska is up there in my top 5 favourite genres, so I bought myself a keyring bottle-opener, very handy! Now I just need to hear the band…
Luckily, The Cherry Reds tour extensively, so there was no shortage of gigs to catch them at, and supporting all sorts of great and legendary ska bands, from The Beat to The Rezillos, and now they have been announced to support the one and only Spunge!!
They are definitely on the right path then, rubbing shoulders, mingling with, and supporting a whole host of ska/reggae/punk superstars along their way. Then, in June, or was it July? Colonel Mustard invited me to cover the Clutha Fest in Clyde Street, a charity event in memory of the Clutha tragedy of 2013. Find that article here…
…The Cherry Reds were playing, and within seconds of them coming on and opening with brand new Rancid track ‘Evil Is My Friend’ I was in love! Finally, Glasgow had produced for me some sons of ska I could really get into, follow and enjoy, I mean sure, you have the Victorian Trout Conspiracy, but they belong to Edinburgh, and then you have Esperanza and the like, but they are strictly ska, The Cherry Reds are ska-punk! That incredible alloying of genres first attempted by Operation Ivy, and quickly growing from a sub-genre through the eighties into a mighty genre of its own today!
The Cherry Reds are obviously inspired by the bands I have loved and grown up with, Rancid, The Specials, The Clash etc. and it shines through wonderfully in their sound, but can they do something different? To what could be considered a tired, old genre that has been rehashed and rehashed…well, we’re about to find out, as I have in my hands, or more specifically, on my computer, an exclusive preview of the bands’ debut EP, ‘Back To The Stompin”, due for release on 22nd January when they launch it with a gig at Audio (Midland St. Glasgow) with support from “The Godfathers of Scottish Ska” Capone & The Bullets, who I have seen, and can confirm are a ska experience like no other! And so without further ado, let’s crack this open and see what we have inside…
When Fudgie (frontman) was passing this over to me he was expressing self-deprecating concern as to how I would review it, as if there was some sort of chance I wouldn’t like it? Come on, this is ska, and ska-PUNK at that, and Glaswegian to boot! And this is The Cherry Reds! And I have seen them and they are outstanding, so how could this go wrong?
Slightly unnerved by this pessimism I hesitantly played the first track ‘What Did You Say’ and was relieved to hear that Fudgie’s concerns were entirely unfounded, perhaps paranoid, as a sweet bassline drives me into a classic and wonderful ska riff, and lyrics of ‘drinking too much wine’ go straight to my dipsomaniac heart. Gang backing vocals (always good), great ska lilt to the lead vocs. and an upbeat, soaring, salmigundy of a ska song to soothe the soul…a good little breakdown at the end to keep you enthralled and it ends, as abruptly and magnificently as it started! if the rest of the EP is like this we are on to a winner!
But the rest of the EP wasn’t like this…………it was fucking better! I’m instantly surprised by the depth and maturity their sound suddenly takes on from the opening reggae chords of second track ‘Not The One To Blame’, The Cherry Reds are quite a young band, late teens I believe, and so the maturity and depth of this song is incredible, it could be any wizened and road-hardened ska vetarans creating this sound… The vocals are masterfully delivered, the bass is skilful and hypnotic and the chords are catching, like any great reggae song, and that’s what this is, a great reggae song…the guitar solo really drives the track home in its tremendousness, and this EP, by only the second song in, has already become an asset to my enormous reggae/ska music collection!
‘Tell Me Little Rude Boy’ is a poignant piece of ska poetry concerning fallen comrades, a song from the heart, and any song written from the heart will touch the heart of any listener. And the maturity and profoundness of what would otherwise be a simple slice of sensational ska music enriches the EP even further, advancing in leaps like a saltigrade.
‘Nothing Really Changes’ but plenty changes when you’re listening to ‘Back To The Stompin” as the band don’t rest on their laurels, they launch from one scintillating track into another, the penultimate song is another serving of reboant reggae. Tales of youth and fornication told to an atmospheric backdrop of almost fairground ska, but slightly more sinister in its deliverance, permeated by the sound of the Glasgow streets.
The title track now, a saltant ska lament to polish off a perfect record, a record only marred by its shortness, but it is an EP, we will have to look forward to the album, which is sure to be a Cherry on top, and the beginning of a wonderful career for a worthy band. Since The Cherry Reds sent me into a skanking, spinning spasm at the Cluthafest last summer, to the privilege and delight of hearing and reviewing this recording, my admiration for them just grows and grows. I will definitely see you all in the pit for the EP launch at Audio on the 22nd.
The Cherry Reds are: Fudgie McFadden (lead vocs, guitar), Jack Duffy (guitar, backing vocs)Paul Graham (skins), and Grant Miller (bass, backing vocs). Pre order ‘Back To The Stompin” here https://thecherryreds.bandcamp.com/releases like the band here https://www.facebook.com/TheCherryReds/?fref=ts and get tickets for their launch night, which is sure to be brilliant, here http://thecherryreds.bigcartel.com/product/ep-launch-night-tickets the EP will no doubt be available at The NHC Store as well as other Cherry Reds merch. So, until the 22nd, seeya’ in the pit!
Originally published on NHC music 10/01/2016