Friday, 16 March 2018

Album Review: I Was Broken When You Got Here by Call Me Malcolm

Call Me Malcolm are a five piece ska punk band from London. In 2014 they released their excellent debut album We Did This To Ourselves which reached number one in the Bandcamp ska punk charts, quite the achievement. Now the band are getting ready to release a brand new album titled I Was Broken When We Got Here. I Was Broken When You Got Here is an album about the band's struggles with mental health, so it's going to be a fun album that also tackles an important topic. Before I had even gotten round to listening to the album, I'd been told to expect great things. Because of this I was really looking forward to sitting down and reviewing the album.

I Was Broken When You Got Here begins with an introduction named Guided Meditation. It's a short spoken word segment parodying meditation audio clips. Things really get going on the first actual song, The Gentleman And The Onion. From the beginning the song displays some big horns that are a trademark of the Call Me Malcolm sound. It's high energy throughout and will quickly get a crowd moving. After seeing Call Me Malcolm live last year at Level Up Festival I was so impressed with lead singer Lucias' vocals. They are stunning here, offering something slightly different to many of their ska punk contemporaries with a slightly poppy and more theatrical approach to singing. He also sings along to a horn section in one part which is just wonderful. Regular readers of CPRW are hopefully familiar with the next song, There's No "I" In Apocalypse, as it was recently featured in our Video Of The Week section. A big theme throughout the album is songs that sound absolutely massive and take you on a musical rollercoaster. This is none more the case than on this song, as Call Me Malcolm take us on a fast paced series of highs and lows. The beginning of the song will grab you immediately with the one-two punch of some rapid fire vocals followed by some stabby horn blasts. The chorus is a real earworm and you'll be singing along loud and proud with the band. The fourth track is arguably the best song on the album and I can see it being a big hit for the band. Titled Restore Factory Settings, the song sees Call Me Malcolm go for a paddle in the reggae pool. There's a really summery vibe to the song and you can easily imagine singing this song on a warm afternoon with your pals with a huge smile on your face. It's about realising you're unwell and finding a way to start again in an attempt to fix yourself. This is the first time on the album that Call Me Malcolm's trombonist Derryck gets a chance to show off his vocal skills as him and Lucias share vocal duties on the track with a huge amount of success. I love this song. Restore Factory Settings reminds me of the Less Than Jake classic The Science Of Selling Yourself Short – but this may be even better than that song.

Call Me Malcolm are really influenced by 90s third wave ska punk and that's no more evident that on the fifth song, Inside Out. If Less Than Jake were channelled on Restore Factory Settings then Reel Big Fish came through on Inside Out. It's an instant skanking song with some superb horns throughout the song. Inside Out is about the negative voices in your head and having a hard time not listening to them. The ending of the track is outstanding, getting slightly heavier before finishing up with a massive chorus. Jacob is I Was Broken When You Got Here's thrashy punk rock track. This is a real throwback to 90s skate punk/pop bands such as MXPX and Goldfinger. It's the chorus that stands out most, particularly the line "start a revolution, with a little dissolution." The band don't forget their ska roots on the song as there is a exceptional breakdown where the horns come in and build the song back up towards one big final chorus. The seventh song on the album is named In Treatment and is about being in therapy and feeling uncomfortable talking to someone. As somebody who has experienced this I found the song hugely relatable. It can also be a frustrating situation to be in, shown brilliantly by a really angry scream that's also used to build towards the end of the song. This is followed up by a musical interlude titled F.T.I.M. After another meditation audio clip we are treated to a horn lead instrumental song. Even though the song feels like an interlude there is absolutely no reason not to be skanking like your life depends on it throughout the song. This moves us nicely into more 90s third wave ska in the form of It's My Plagiary And I'm Going Home. The song begins with a mid tempo but upbeat horn section before some quick vocals from Lucias pick things up. His vocals steal the show here, he really has one of the best set of pipes in the scene. It's My Plagiary And I'm Going Home is such a fun song, it's pretty impossible not to smile the whole way through it.

Show Me What You Got starts out with somewhat of a funky beat before it launches into a hard hitting ska punk jam. It's about finding a way of letting out all of your rage and frustrations. It's a pretty empowering song with a big chorus to sing-a-long with and plenty of opportunities to give it your all on the dance floor. This song delivers a great amount of catharsis for its listeners. Up next is Now Wait For Last Year. Now Wait For Last Year is about trying to remain strong for somebody who sadly doesn't have long left. I Was Broken When You Got Here is full of personal moments but this song, without a doubt, feels like the most personal. Whenever a band or artist writes a song as deeply personal as this I always have the utmost respect for them because I think it's so brave to put out all your feelings in such a way. Despite its sad topic, in true ska punk style, it's another really upbeat song musically that I can imagine a room full of people having the best time dancing along to. On an album jammed full of amazing songs, Call Me Malcolm perhaps finish it with not only the best song on the album but maybe the best song they've ever written. All My Nameless Friends starts out with a reasonably long introduction that does a fantastic job of building towards the opening lyrics. The song is about being feeling better when you're around all your friends and those familiar faces that you see in your local punk scene. Call Me Malcolm are a huge part of the Be Sharp Promotions/New Cross Inn ska punk scene and there are plenty of subtle references to this spread throughout the song. This song is a great little nod to what is a really friendly and welcoming scene. There is no other phrase for the song's ending other than "fucking epic." I really don't like to swear ever, whether it's in everyday conversation or in my writing, so please know that if I do drop an f-bomb then I really am trying to emphasise my point. I'll say it again, the ending of All My Nameless Friends is fucking epic! After a long sequence of choruses, the song transitions into a ginormous whoa-oh section to finish the song. I can't wait to be at the New Cross for Call Me Malcolm to play this song, particularly for this section, I can only imagine the size of the goose bumps that will appear on my arm as this is belted out by the whole pub. Fucking epic. I Was Broken When You Got Here concludes with another guided meditation audio segment that suggests if you're still feeling terrible come the end of the album you should listen to it again. This made me laugh.

There's not much left to say for a conclusion to this review other than I Was Broken When You Got Here is 99% certain to be the ska punk album of 2018.

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This review was written by Colin Clark.

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