For a band with such an unpredictable sound, the choice of title sums it up well. ‘Radical. Anarchic. Bolshy. Scouse’ indeed – pretty concise for a debut outing. Across five songs and seven members Bolshy latch dub, salsa and hip hop to a third-wave ska-punk sound that provides their sonic backbone, and for the vast majority of the release they tie their influences together with refreshing stability. The success of the overall textural edge is perhaps the work of producer Patrick O’Shaughnessy more than anyone else, whose bright and direct style lends enough breathing room for each of the group’s myriad instruments.
That’s not to take away from the musicians themselves, though, who rattle through their styles at some pace, yet make every effort to cement the bridges. Take opener ‘Counting Fucks’ for example. A spiky guitar line gets a few seconds in the limelight before an urgent riff of brass clatters into it, in turn giving way to a cool, collected vocal as everything blends together, but as soon as you’ve settled in it relaxes to a measured chorus imbibed with a measured yet give-a-fuck attitude. This too is not long for the ear, racing back up to high-tempo courtesy of a backing-vocal scream. The song is less than two and a half minutes long, the perfect opportunity for a throwaway thrasher, but the time lavished over it is completely apparent.
Bolshy are a band with a lot of strings to their bow, and they’re clearly looking to show them all off both within each track and across the EP. From the dub breakdown that follows a glorious sequence of sax/brass interplay on ‘Spaceman’ to the sunny tones of ‘Dead Worm’ and the protest chants of ‘Payroll Call’, there’s forever a twist or turn. The downside of the band’s diversity is that occasionally they can stumble under their own weight – every now and then there’s just too much going on, such as on the heavier sections of ‘No Means No’ which are packed with noise to the extent that it just feels slightly cluttered, and the rap section of ‘Payroll Call’ which though excellent doesn’t get the lengthy showpiece that might better cement it as a proper element of Bolshy’s sound. That said however the musical downsides pale in comparison to innumerable peaks.
As any witness of the group’s well-revered busking sets can tell you, there’s more to Bolshy than their instrumentals, priding themselves on “strong anti-capitalist and anti-discrimination ethics”. Fortunately the band’s ideology isn’t lacking on record and at no point feels conceited, and while their lyrics are admittedly simple they’re direct, honest and delivered with uplifting conviction.
Sophistication isn’t really the object when it comes to a band like Bolshy, after all there are plenty of sophisticated artists around, but how many of them have anything to say? Though a cynic might dismiss the group’s straightforward approach as naïve abandon, this EP is a stout reply – both a hugely convincing listen and affirmation of studio credentials to back up their now fabled live reputation.
To Listen To The EP Radical. Anarchic. Bolshy. Scouse. Click Here.