Sonic Boom Six – ‘The F-Bomb’ [Review]
When most bombs drop, they cause widespread destruction and suffering.
The F-Bomb does the opposite.
Sonic Boom Six’s latest album is creative, liberating, and above all else supportive of those who continue to endure discrimination even in the year 2016. This is made clear from the off through the feminist-friendly No Man No Right and anti-racist tune From The Fire To The Frying Pan, the latter of which shows that while Sonic Boom Six don’t approve of Britain First and co., they still understand how even the most well-meaning people can get sucked into their orbit and seduced by extremist bullshit.
Let’s face it: If labelling people who don’t share your political views as “stupid” through a Facebook comment thread was a tactic that actually worked, we’d all have switched sides by now. We’d also be no better off, because the root problem, which is that rather than seeing humanity as one whole that deserves equal treatment we divide ourselves into separate groups based on gender, nationality, skin colour, etc. and make up different rules for each one, would remain unresolved. Just as it is right now. Trying to understand each other is a strategy that remains mostly untried, unfortunately – but Sonic Boom Six are pursuing it on The F-Bomb, and good on them.
Anyway, as a political statement, From The Fire To The Frying Pan is as accurate as Britain First’s memes are not. And beyond this point, Sonic Boom Six temporarily switch their focus to more light-hearted territory.
Do What You Wanna Do is not the kind of song you’d necessarily expect to follow hard-hitting feminist and anti-racist tracks. It’s hilariously cheesy, cramming disco-influenced ‘90s pop, dub, drum ‘n’ bass and ska into a great feel-good anthem. Drop The Bass (And Pick It Up) keeps the pace up via classic Boom vibes, drawing hard on a fat reggae groove and slick trumpet solo. By the time The F-Bomb’s third and fourth songs are done, Sonic Boom Six have pulled off the perfect balancing act.
Beyond warm-hearted reggae ballad Train Leaves Tomorrow comes L.O.V.E., an equally toasty Jamiroquai-esque disco tune concealing more politicised lyricism behind strutting rhythms and irrepressible positivity. Generalised resistance to oppression, abuse, and violence is the core topic here, and although in the wrong hands L.O.V.E. could be written off as naïve, in the context of The F-Bomb as a whole and the fact that Sonic Boom Six have made their name by knowing their shit – as well as the presence of lyrics that don’t fuck about – there’s an extra depth of meaning there that makes this song a simultaneously thought-provoking and cucumber-cool classic. It’ll also have you rushing out to buy a disco ball, flares, and an Afro wig for added listening authenticity. Maybe.
Then, there’s Worship Yourself. Balance is becoming the key word when thinking about The F-Bomb by this point; this time around we’re looking at a stark song about domestic violence set to a backing of danceable beats and happy handclaps. It’s a serious mixed bag emotionally – on the one hand it’s sad that songs like this need to exist, but on the other hand Worship Yourself does, and the world’s all the better for it. Joanna praises a transgendered acquaintance – and for me this is a topic that I have very little direct experience with, but it’s still cool to hear a band actively support people who want to be free to express themselves the way they want.
With only two tracks left, it already feels like The F-Bomb’s over too soon – but the half-life of its ultra-catchy components is going to prove pretty lengthy, especially in the case of All The Same To Me. Heading to the ‘80s, Sonic Boom Six draw on the “me” decade and the present-day media to explore the body image and lifestyle issues that more or less everyone struggles with in our culture at some point in their lives. It’s still another timely tune, precisely picked and carefully crafted into a complete winner.
One more to go: Echoes In The Dark.
After opening with ‘80s cop movie synths, chorused guitar chords, and one big rock beat, the vocals come in – and this is easily, just easily, the harshest, most vulnerable song Sonic Boom Six have ever put out. Not a word is wasted as a tale of teenage sexual abuse is told in short, sharp, and stark lyrical phrases. After everything that’s led to this point, this is the bit where you look back at The F-Bomb as a whole and see every note and word in a new light.
Ultimately, Echoes In The Dark is a story of self-affirmation, recovery, and achievement. Victory over trauma. Having recently read an entire book about this kind of abuse for an ongoing TMMP book project*, and having known a lot of women who’ve gone through similar situations to the one described in this song, I found Echoes In The Dark pretty hard to listen to. But at the end of the day, it’s not a song about fragility and helplessness, but rather overcoming a fucked-up situation and encouraging others to do likewise.
A must-listen for everyone on the planet, in my opinion.
With The F-Bomb, Sonic Boom Six have finally graduated to the level of the likes of The Specials and Rage Against The Machine. This is a set of songs you can love and appreciate just for the music, if that’s your thing, as the lyrics slowly work their way into your subconscious and make you ask some important questions. Or, if you’re ready, you can just embrace the whole thing and rejoice in the fact that a band are doing what Sonic Boom Six are doing.
The F-Bomb is Sonic Boom Six’s masterpiece. If you find that statement as controversial as the songs on the actual album, you need to listen to it again.
TMMP RATING: 100% (Essential Listening!)
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* The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk.