THE KILOGRAMS – The Kilograms EP

Bringing together the talents of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Joe Gittleman (The Bass Fiddleman), Bouncing Souls man Michael McDermott, Secret Six’s J. Duckworth and Sammy Kay, The Kilograms is a supergroup of sorts. However, listeners shouldn’t necessarily expect this band to merely recycle the high octane punk and ska associated with their day jobs. Granted, you’ll find some familiar musical touchstones, but The Kilograms is very different beast.

An EP standout, ‘I Swear’ sets the tone by dropping into a classic rocksteady rhythm almost immediately. Driven by the Gittleman bass, the number’s mid tempo reggae comes with a genuine warmth and a feel of the genre’s past glories. Gittleman peppers the melody with a touch of funkiness which lifts everything in the most subtle way, and the manner in which the bass and drums lock together feels entirely natural. With swathes of organ, there are times when this feels like a faint throwback to one of the deep cuts from the Virgin Records ‘Front Line’ reggae box set, but once the guitars punch through, it’s also a little reminiscent of one of Sublime’s less frivolous or self-obsessed efforts. With a fantastic arrangement and lyrics dealing with the importance of truth in the modern world, it has an approach that sets The Kilograms up with all the confidence that comes from the decades of hard graft leading up to this release.

With more of a guitar orientated intro, ‘Can’t Be Beat’ sounds, at first, as if it’ll add a touch more of an alternative element into The Kilograms sound, but once the verse settles in, Gittleman leads the charge with a slow reggae groove, which not only gives the track an occasionally heavy feel, but also a great sound. The chorus blends reggae and rock – making good on those earlier hints of guitar – beneath a really familiar hook. The way the vocals rise into a pop-rock melody immediately recalls several choruses from the more commercial end of the Bosstones’ catalogue – Gittleman is clearly working to a favourite formula here – and although his vocals aren’t the strongest, the general vibe is positive enough to make it work. With more great organ weaving between his bass, as with ‘I Swear’, a couple of plays ensures this adds something enjoyable to the EP.

Much better, ‘Who Am I (To Say)’ finds Gittleman peppering a reggae bass tone with busier notes, finally leaning more towards the ska that fans might’ve expected from this project, and the buoyancy of the arrangement immediately results in something with more of a feel good factor. With an echoing guitar sharing a jazzy tune against the more assured reggae rhythms, there’s a superb crossover feel here, and the reverb applied to the lead elements lends the tune a strange, hazy quality that is just perfect. A second “Dub Version” of the number accentuates the great bassline whilst applying various reverbed effects to the vocal. Rather than being a complete overhaul or a deep dub experiment in the vein of Prince Jammy, Roots Radics or Sly & Robbie, this has more of an alternative colourant, but for those who’ve found an instant love of the original cut, it’ll more than entertain.

Shifting back to the reggae sounds of the opener, ‘America In Black & White’ drops into a slow, dub-like groove which makes a great feature of the bass. The scratchy vocal gives the slow, ominous melody an even darker feel, but if anything stands out here, its the way that slabs of old style organ seep between the grooves, adding an equally dark feel. That technique already provided the heart of a couple of other numbers, but here, it all feels rather more natural, which suits the politicised messages that have inspired The Kilograms’ best work. The effect is like hearing an old Steel Pulse jam augmented by Jerry Dammers which, musically, brings as much of a cock-sure attitude as you’d expect. The music is so solid that it’s actually easy to overlook one of the EP’s scratchier vocals, but even with that obvious flaw, it’s another of The Kilograms’ stand out tracks.

Every one of these songs works a great, timeless sound. Sure, the end results might owe far more to a semi-commercial reggae influence than the invigorating ska and punk shared by some of the members’ other bands, and often work more of a bass groove than an immediate skank, but ‘The Kilograms’ EP supplies brilliant music throughout. For those reggae and punk fans of an alternative mindset, this short release will supply an enjoyable summer-tinged soundtrack…whatever the weather, the location, or the time of year. Recommended.

March 2024