Burning Cities

No Bad Records 

The Scots post-punk legends have one thing in common with Chuck Berry, William Shatner and The Stooges.

They all now feature in a list of bands and artists with the longest gap between consecutive studio albums.

It has been 36 years since the Skids' last album Joy and Richard Jobson and his crew have decided now is the time to unleash new music showing there are more strings to their bow than recent mainly nostalgia-heavy live outings.

For the unitiated, the combo who formed 40 years ago when Jobson was barely into his teens, were responsible for some of the most exhilirating tunes of the post-punk era from their only top ten hit, the seminal Into The Valley and The Saints Are Coming to the later but still catchy art-punk of the intelligently crafted Goodbye Civilian and Circus Games.

The main man for this curious fifth album is Jobson with the passing 16 years ago of original guitarist Stuart Adamson, who went on to greater mainstream success with Big Country after quitting the band in 1980.

So why now?

“In 1977, we were singing songs about what we saw as a world in crisis”. said Jobson. “Today that message is more relevant than ever. Burning Cities is packed full of punk rock protest songs. It’s an album we’re very proud of."

The resurrection has been aided in no small way with the recruitment of a father-and-son team on guitars with Adamson's long-time Big Country band mate Bruce Watson and Jamie, whose stamp is clear in the live arena and on this fifth Skids album.


For drummer Mike Baillie this is his second Skids album experience, and the third for co-band founder and bassist Bill Simpson.

It may sound a convoluted set up, but any sense of trepidation of an unlikely renaissance is soon blasted away with an album that refuses to accept it's the end and is determined to keep true to the past, while striving to remain relevant.

While Skids are now competing with bands who have been influenced by them, there is no sign that they can do anything other than flex their muscles with the best of them.

The anti-war and politically aware stance of Into The Valley, their only top ten single, is echoed through the messages of the album, if not always through the sound of it.

Produced by Killing Joke bassist Youth whose credits include the Verve and Primal Scream, the 11 tracks here are polished and precise leaving behind some of the innocently lo-fi early recordings through more modern mastering techniques.  He also has a major hand in the songwriting of four of the songs here.

For the most part Jobson-and-co channel their inner punk with a blistering set of infectious guitar pop songs featuring big choruses and bigger guitar hooks that nod to the best of what made Skids so irresistible.

It gets off to a promising start with the breast-beating This Is Our World which starts with a solitary piano and then cavorts into a power riff and a distinctly 80s-sounding synth part as Jobson asks: "This is our world, can you feel us".

The foot-stomping One Last Chance is the first on the album to have the stamp of the bagpipe-guitar Adamson introed in early Skids material and made more familiar with Big Country.

The exhilirating A World On Fire could easily be a relative of In A Big Country by Big Country, so much so, I was expecting a trademark "ha" from Adamson through the riffs.

The relentlessly up-tempo first half gives way to a slightly more reflective second half,  which might be a cue for a cringe.  But album highlight Refugee is uplifting, haunting and affecting and bravely takes the band to a new place.   It's not punk in tempo or volume, but definitely in spirit.

The sneering Kings Of The New World Order is prime Skids, the rip-roaring Subbotnik tells us "war is peace and peace is war" while the blazing closer Into The Void takes the band into Oi territory.

Jobson slows it down for the closer Desert Dust which is smothered in gorgeous violin and proves a reflective rather than a fiery anti-war statement.  

Skids albums were never the most consistent. But in 2018, the band may just have produced their most dependably catchy and anthemic collection of tunes of their career.

Welcome back.

Footnote: Chuck Berry brought out the Chuck album in June, last year, 38 years after his previous LP Rockit in 1979.

William Shatner, while noted more for his acting than singing career, took 36 years between The Transformed Man in 1968 and Has Been in October 2004.

There were 34 years between The Stooges' Raw Power in 1973 and their next album The Weirdness.