Pocket Billiards – Last Chance to Dance
“…They’ve got a message, they’ve got spunk, and they’ve got one hell of a good thing going on…”
For many years now, ska punk rockers Pocket Billiards have been tearing up the Belfast music scene. Originally formed in 2001, the 9-piece have been fusing ska punk with reggae and dub for just over a decade. Their sound is raw, energetic and powerful, and their latest studio album, Last Chance to Dance, is no different.
Up first is the title track. The opening of this song entrances us with a hauntingly robotic sound before kicking into a slow, beat driven into. When the trumpet comes in and the tempo is upped, you understand the title choice. This track is one of the best on the album and creates visions of swinging hips and clicking fingers.
The second track is the aptly named Panic. Unlike the title track, Panic jumps right into it with a frantic yet upbeat composition. Its lyrics are incredibly simple yet extremely effective. 50% of the words are “Panic, it’s a state of emergency” while the other percentage details what the singer can see “on the streets”. What he sees ranges from caffeine to petrol bombs – a powerful message about today’s trigger happy culture.
Barrelling on to track number three, So Many People, So Little Time, and we can clearly see Pocket Billiards’ Reggae roots come out to play. Robot Repeat again makes a statement about modern culture, this time about our seemingly mindless and repetitive actions, while Stick Around is far more riff heavy and focuses on lighter subject matter.
Track six, Dead Eyes, was my personal favourite. Refreshingly unassuming with intelligent lyrics, this track really spoke to me. Its opening has a goosebump-inducing echo that resonates right into the main body of the song. I found “The evening sun, fragile like this life” to be a particularly poignant sentence.
Modern Life Parasite has a particularly catchy riff, Tetrisaurus Rex has a sidesplittingly hilarious intro that you really have to hear to believe, and Drinkin’ is simplistic to a fault, yet catchy as hell.
The tenth track on Last Chance is titled This Short Life and tells us, you guessed it, about the shortness of life and urges us to seize the day. “Just one brief flicker of consciousness/Then never-ending day of being dead.”
Interestingly enough, the last track on the album is called The End. Heavier than its predecessors, this one’s got some edginess to it. Shouty lyrics are spliced with some that are low and almost chant-like and the trumpet’s got some very interesting, snake-charming segments. Definitely one of my favorites.
All in all, an excellent second album for Pocket Billiards. While I’ve never been much of a ska punk fan, and I pretty much hate reggae, these guys do it for me. They’ve got a message, they’ve got spunk, and they’ve got one hell of a good thing going on.