I Was Broken When You Got Here is destined to be the soundtrack to your summer. London’s Call Me Malcolm have taken all the best elements of late-90s ska punk and rolled it into one irresistable package, modernising it by opening up about depression and anxiety.
It has been a long time since I’ve encountered an album that I couldn’t take off repeat, but I’ve listened to very little else for the last three weeks. It is due for release on Be Sharp Promotions and Bad Granola Records on Friday April 6th and take my word for it: you need this album in your life.
It is not often nowadays that a ska-punk album comes along and completely stops you in your tracks. It’s not 2003. Ska-punk is no longer in vogue, if it ever was, however for those of us who do like our punk brassy, sunny and loaded with upstrokes, it is a very special thing. Arguably there has been a resurgence this year, but it’s been spearheaded by the return of some legendary live bands, not by new album releases.
Then Call Me Malcolm blast in out of left-field and drop this catchy, infectious masterpiece that grows more ingrained into your skull with every listen. Call Me Malcolm have been on the scene for quite a number of years and, although I’ve always liked them, I would never have expected them to come out with an album that, with the right marketing, could honestly rival Less Than Jake. Perhaps it’s my lack of presumption and expectation that allowed me to be wowed by this record, however it’s stood up to hundreds of repeat plays without becoming a ounce less enticing.
The album opens with a soft female voice introducing us to Call Me Malcolm’s ‘72 hour guided meditation series’ telling us to ‘begin by lighting a scented candle and calmly counting to 10’. It’s a cheesy ploy but it works just as well as the famous ‘it’s time to relax’ intro on The Offspring’s Smash.
The album then blasts into the exciting opening bars of The Gentleman and The Onion. It’s got all the confidence, swagger and polish of third-wave American ska-punk, twinned with a Britishness that reminds me of Lightyear. There’s a little brass melee on There’s No I In Apocalypse with a sax tone on par with Capdown’s famously unattainable quality. Vocalist Lucias clearly enunciates and properly sings every note, finishing Apocalypse with a little vocal flourish that reminds me of the best parts of The JB Conspiracy. This has got the power to rival The JB’s This Machine for speed, skill and irresistibly danceable grooves.
Asides Apocalypse, the other standout track for me is Restore Factory Settings. It’s a simpler song which takes an upbeat approach to accepting your depression isn’t just a phase, with a style of black humour that is classically British.
Before that, our meditation guide returns to advise us that, “Lavender and rose water smells lovely, and can help you battle the aching void where you happiness used to be.” Restore Factory Settings is unrelentingly sunny, feeling like a west coast boulevard, which feels quite a contradiction to the subject matter. It’s full of perky upstrokes and the earworm chorus of, “Let’s take a long walk down to last summer’s breakdown,” leaves me powerless not to sing along every single time.
The brass opening on Inside Out is Less Than Jake at the top of their game: all Hello Rockview, no In With The Out Crowd. You know that slightly grating white-boy-rapping thing that’s super common at the Chinatown Courtyard at Boomtown? Well Call Me Malcolm sometimes do that but it’s not annoying and it sounds great.
Jacob takes a snappy Millencolin-esque skate-punk turn, with crunchy riffs, poppy vocals and razor sharp percussion. It’s another of my favourite songs on an album full of bangers. I’m thoroughly impressed by the way Call Me Malcolm have turned out the noisy punk ruckus we love with the good vibes of a sweltering beach holiday. Every song is full of exceptionally strong horn lines, flawless vocals and a tight punk backline. It will make you dance, it will make you smile, and it’s going to do much better job of fixing your depression than some fucking scented candles.
I Was Broken When You Got Here is the best thing to hit ska-punk since 1999. It’s got ‘album of the year’ written all over it, and it’s only March. Even if you’re not a fan of ska I strongly recommend that you give this record a try. You will not regret it.