The Stopouts, Failure By Design, The Amnesiacs - Liverpool: a Ska-Volution?

Linzi Barton 08/09/2006

"If you're heading to Liverpool, skanking shoes are a necessity!"

From the outside, the club seems pretty non-descript; a small queue of punks, skaters and indie kids line up outside the venue, waiting to be stamped on their way into the club, the odd promoter walks past handing out flyers for next weeks 'extravaganza' involving the new must see metal acts from Norway.

However inside, there is a different story unfolding, a new scene that trashes the punk/indie divide and is insisting that all egos be left outside with the neo-rave hordes. The place is buzzing with anticipation, the crowds are all talking about the bands that will be appearing; names such as Failure By Design and The Stopouts are being mentioned with such an excitable familiarity that you just know that this new scene is for real and not another fad that NME or the like pick up, just on pure aesthetic value.

Suddenly the lights dim and the riff kicks off, the band jump around the stage, copied to exact perfection by a crowd ready to dance but also listen to a collection of songs that mean a lot in this world dominated by heartless corporations and TV hyper-realities.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in Liverpool. Throughout Merseyside a ska-based scene is building with force. Bands such as The Stopouts, Failure By Design and The Amnesiacs are playing lively shows, building a respectable fan base and living on a DIY life style that incorporates the punk ethos with indie cool.

After an impressive show I caught up with The Stopouts front man Tom "two tone" Morrison and gathered his thoughts on this exciting revival.

“It's quite remarkable” he muses, still buzzing from the show. “Liverpool has always been associated with a top music scene, but never ska or reggae. This is different to everything else that the city may have witnessed.”

But is that so? Liverpool has always had a thriving punk scene, creating great under ground acts such as The Down and Outs and Blue Demon, surely this is just another fad in waiting? Morrison disagrees, “True, Liverpool has had a punk scene well established for a while. It's got some great bands and fantastic crowds, but this is so different. Normally the city is divided musically between the Indie scene and the alternative groups. But with the bands you're seeing here tonight, there is literally something that everyone can get involved in. If you're a punk you'll love the tunes, the dancing and the aggression, but the more laid back Indie kids will appreciate the freshness of it all. Forget the divides and egos; they get left outside”

This isn't a fad, but the real deal instead. The beauty is that it involves a massive cross section of artists and genres. From Failure By Designs melodic ska/punk to The Amnesiacs hip-hop/reggae grooves, this scene is cooking up a storm and the crowds are relating to the voices being heard.

“What's the point is singing about love and emotions when we are all in trouble with a society that is ready to implode?” The Stopouts singer continues, “Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the loved and lost songs, but we also need to get some perspective. If our songs can help with that then that's part of the mission complete.” It must be said, it is refreshing to hear a band member speak about the world in a way that doesn't stink of pretentious Bono-esque drivel,“Well,” Morrison smirks, “I guess he does his part”.

But if that's only part of the mission, what is there left to do? I'm given a look that seems almost puzzled “It's ska, we want people to dance and have a good time” he says simply.

Judging from the crowd it seems that it may be mission complete at this gig, I ask him how he thinks tonight has gone and he simply replies “Any show with trumpets and saxophones is going to be good, now put that pen down and dance!”

With special thanks to Tom Morrison of The Stopouts who can be found at www.myspace.com/stopouts