Quintessentially British – perhaps a term that would be more suited to advertising a new blend of tea, or the recent onslaught of tear-jerking holiday season adverts gracing various channels across televisions. In terms of music, “British” has been used to describe various characteristics, yet none more so than social commentary. In the past this social commentary has stemmed from Britpop bands like Oasis or Blur (arguably the go-to Britpop bands but rightly so) largely due to their social standing rather than lyrical content. Now more than ever British social commentary is infiltrating a new generation of musicians from all walks of life, dissatisfied with anything from the government to social attitude. In this, The Jellycats join an increasing plethora of alternative bands struggling to make a change.
An album filled with tracks testifying to the downtrodden through overly serious lyrics and tunes to mirror the message would undoubtedly incite levels of self-pity few would be able to stomach. Instead, The Jellycats follow their closest companions (and lazy comparison) Sonic Boom Six; delivering a similar approach when making their statement. Each story contains a level of comical cynicism – lyrical content is not only quirky but wrapped up in a DIY ska package, protecting the inner message from collateral damage. By not taking themselves too seriously the stories are more enjoyable, entertaining and most importantly, relatable.
The songs tackle serious issues albeit ones that have been covered elsewhere. ‘British Poverty’ (complete with a David Cameron sample as its opening) delivers the biggest political punch, inevitably discussing reaction to the British recession. Ending with an oddball take on the Sammy Davis Jr. classic ‘The Candy Man’ provides a smirk, yet simultaneously suggests the silly nature of the situation. This sits alongside thought-provoking lyrics (i.e. “Chase the jobless for the student loans/old timers can’t heat their homes“) that when considered raise serious doubts over today’s society.
This “Britishness” continues within the musical style – although ska-punk originated in the United States, both the vocal delivery and subtle experimentation with the genre are more associated with the other side of the pond. The abrasive nature of both the lyrical content (‘Gay’ making a valid argument with some questionable lyrics) and vocal delivery are likely to split opinion. Emma May delivers the tracks exactly as required, yet the initial superficial sound may alienate those with a more ‘mature’ palate.
‘When I Do’ screams home-grown and grassroots; both in style and content. For a band who clearly take the issues seriously, the music does not necessarily take the same direction – yet this ends up largely in their favour. By not taking themselves as seriously the messages and stories are easier to digest – broken up by a comical interaction between the remaining band members and drummer Stu Cooper. Hearing these songs tell an actual story is entirely refreshing. ‘When I Do’ is unlikely to bring in the bucks and turn The Jellycats into a household name, but it takes admirable steps in representing an increasingly forgotten society.