This is a review of "This Sporting Life" recorded by Skint & Demoralised. The review was written by Matty Lund in 2011.
Some of you may remember Matt Abbott's initial project. I would imagine that the majority of readers won't. So, I'm gonna attempt to put you in the know before we get down to the nitty gritty. It's quite a dramatic journey, so, try and keep up.
Matt started out his career in music as a poet, and performed at gigs, in and around his native hometown of Wakefield. Along comes a producer, the mysterious 'Mini Dog' from Sheffield, and asks Matt if he would be interested in putting music with his lyrics. Skint & Demoralised was born. The collaboration took off from here. They were championed by the very reputable Steve Lamacq, who cited 'Thrill of Thirty Seconds' as his song of the year back in 2008. Mercury offered them a major recording deal, and off they went to the Daptone Studios in New York to record, what should have been their debut album, titled 'Love & Other Catastrophes'. Skint & Demoralised didn't take off like Mercury had hoped. Despite getting plenty of exposure, radio airplay and songs played on the likes of Waterloo Road and Gavin & Stacey - the definition of success, I know - their 'make or break' single 'Red Lipstick' failed to reach the Top 40. So, Mercury pulled the plug on the album and the record deal.
After a difficult few months, Matt decided he wasn't gonna sit around feeling sorry for himself, and wondering what could have been, and got a band together made up of friends and local musicians. They sampled new material and starting playing together around West Yorkshire. Matt scored a deal with Heist or Hit Records, and a single release and double album release was scheduled.
So, that's a concise update of Skint & Demoralised to this day; there's plenty of information that I've excluded. Believe me, that is the most concise I could get it.
'This Sporting Life' shows the progression that Matt has gone through over the past few turbulent years. The lyrics are more mature and at times rather harrowing. However, musically there hasn't been a dramatic overhaul of sound. They've dropped the female backing vocalist and got rid of the brass section of the orchestra but there is still an abundance of jangly Marr-esque guitars accompanying the Northern Soul beat and the sometimes fantastic lyrical work. That's a good thing, because the previous sound was one that they had nailed, it was a sound that even the most uptight of people couldn't help doing a subtle jive along to.
'Catastrophes' is practically all spoken word but 'This Sporting Life' sees a shift away from that formula. Although Matt clearly isn't a natural born singer, the vocals (which almost sound Shane MacGowan-like during the opening track) work with the music and lyrics; it all just gels together perfectly. There seems to be a sense of camaraderie within the band. Where Matt used to have anonymous session musicians performing with him on-stage, he can now look round and see some familiar faces, faces that he has known for years, and I think that makes him more comfortable.
In summary, the double album, if you will, is a mostly winning introduction (for most) to Skint & Demoralised, with flashes of brilliance. If they utilise the things they are good at, Skint & Demoralised could do very well for themselves indeed. There's plenty of solid material that should ensure their live shows are a spectacle worth seeing. Some may dismiss them as 'landfill indie' after 30 seconds - the song and the duration - but I urge you to give it a proper listen and guarantee that you will find some genius work. After all, some of the greatest bands could be grouped under the indie umbrella, the Smiths for example. I'm not comparing Matt Abbott to Morrissey though. Or am I?