So, here it is. The first review in our Uncharted Territory section. It has been really great hearing from so many bands, all eager to show off their hard work. The band that we have selected as our first participants are Brooklyn-based six piece Shinobi Ninja and we are specifically going to focus on their 2011 debut Rock Hood.
As an avid Game Gear player (remember those? They were like Gameboys but four times the size and ate batteries for fun), I loved the game Shinobi. Despite not having the ninja star functionality of the Megadrive version, I would spend hours playing when I was younger – not least because of the lack of save function which meant turning off the console reset all progress. This oblique reference to my childhood passion and the fact that their EP Shinobi Ninja Attacks comes encased inside a NES cartridge ingratiated the band with me instantly. The gaming does not stop there – Shinobi Ninja released an iPhone app to coincide with their EP. Part side scrolling beat 'em up, part new music experience, it is inventive to say the least. The trailer is below:
So, on to Rock Hood. There are so many things I liked about this album and I think my status as a child of the 90s definitely didn't hurt. It is hard not to draw parallels with Rage Against The Machine. Although the album consists fundamentally of party songs, there is a definite whisper of disaffected youth that was ever-present in Zack de la Rocha's work. This is counterculture music that your parents are supposed to hate and that was what the late 20th century was all about for me. Whether it was Green Day, Nirvana, The Beastie Boys or even Slipknot – the more my parents disliked it, the more airplay it would get.
Brooklyn To Babylon is a magnificent showcase, an overture of sorts for what is to come. It highlights the band's versatility before folding nicely into title track Rock Hood. I do feel that the album loses its way a little in the middle and it could be at least three tracks shorter without losing anything of what I enjoyed about it. Having said that, it closes off fantastically with a well-executed cover of Montell Jordan's 90s anthem This Is How We Do It, perfect for reminiscing about high school days.
What I love about Rock Hood is that nothing is off the table and that the table often feels like it is on the back of an 18 wheeler truck being driven through a wall at 150 miles per hour. Laid back melodies segue seamlessly into thudding raps before morphing into more rock-orientated segments. Sprinkle with a touch of metal and the occasional impassioned scream and it makes for an incredibly varied mix. For some reason, I couldn't help but think of the Spike Lee movies of the time, in particular Do The Right Thing. The heat and passion of the city, multiple energies clashing and converging, all to the sound of Radio Raheem's boombox.
There were times, in my default and generally unerring state of lethargy, that I almost felt out of place even listening to Shinobi Ninja. Singer Doobie has the aura of a wind up toy, fizzling with kinetic energy straining to be released whereas Baby G acts as a perfect foil, oozing suave swagger. There is such a level of energy and enthusiasm that exudes from them and it is splendidly infectious. It is music that makes me want to channel my inner William Purkey and dance like no-one is watching. I am very much looking forward to new album Bless Up, currently slated for release in March.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“Talkin' to my old man, he just don't get it//Mama wanna know why I walk this way”
Brooklyn's finest rock
Rap and rage like the nineties
Hands off, Mom and Dad
As always, please feel free to write your own review using the comments section below. The more the merrier. Please do take note of our contribution guidelines. Looking forward to hearing what you thought.