The big review: The Interrupters – In The Wild

Ska-punk heroes The Interrupters take on the world, and a troubled past, on triumphant fourth album In The Wild.

The big review: The Interrupters – In The Wild
Steve Beebee

Unifying and addictive – those are the descriptors that seem to follow The Interrupters from album to album. The SoCal band are apex exponents of second wave ska-punk, but on a deeply human level, they mean way more than that. Genre goes out the window; heart and personality comes steaming in. Their energetic, sauna-hot live shows have felt more like family gatherings than gigs, and while always unusually heartfelt, the themes in their songs have never been as honest or as raw as on this fourth album.

Brought crashing back to basics by the pandemic (the quartet had been scheduled to join Green Day’s Hella Mega Tour), the downtime gave singer Aimee Interrupter the space she needed to confront her difficult past – subjects she’d hinted at via upbeat fight songs like Title Holder, but never truly explored. The other factor that’s ended up putting In The Wild into its own space is that for the first time – again due to lockdown – Rancid legend Tim Armstrong was unable to produce. This put guitarist Kevin Bivona into the producer’s chair, making him “the accountable one”, as he put it.

The differences are there – which, when you’re seeking to break new ground, is as it should be. Kevin’s sound is slightly bulked up from the more sparing, comparatively stripped back bones that Tim would seek to rattle. But more importantly, on most of these 14 songs, Aimee opens up about her troubled youth, the sometimes abusive past that dragged her into a whirlpool of social anxiety, depression and obsessive behaviours such as trichotillomania (pulling out hair).

Aptly-titled opener Anything Was Better is a typically big-hearted anthem about escape and rejuvenation, massive hooks, hand claps and propulsive Bivona guitars. Second track As We Live features Armstrong, their great mentor, and 2 Tone veteran Rhoda Dakar – its echoey ska tones build to a jogging knees-up, another song to raise vibrations. ‘Love is an action, start with yourself!’ the three singers exhort us.

In The Mirror, The Hard Way and the surging, irresistible Jailbird are The Interrupters at their powerful, skanking, soothing best. ‘Took me two years to write this song… the truth’s so ugly,’ rues Aimee in the former. These songs mate serious-as-cancer poetry with buoyant, danceable music, leaving the outcome in your hands – you can use them to exorcize your demons, like Aimee, or you can just shut those horned fuckers out and dance.

Elsewhere, there’s sunshine-filled reggae (Burdens and Love Never Dies), a song about Aimee’s dear departed pet dog (My Heart) and songs urging you to purge negative influence from your world – Let ’Em Go boasts yet another clan-gathering thumper of a hook, while Worst For Me actually sounds like a sequel to Rancid’s 1995 classic The Way I Feel.

What makes The Interrupters (completed by twin brothers, drummer Jesse and bassist Justin Bivona) so special, and their formula so darn difficult to replicate, is that while Aimee’s lyrics are unflinching and painful, the music that accompanies them is bouncy and bright, a rallying call for togetherness – a unified spirit that simply says ‘we’ll get through it together’.

For anyone that’s ever been singled out or made to feel alone, you’re not; you’re actually part of a peaceful army, and In The Wild is a record for you.

Rating: 4/5

For fans of: Rancid, The Distillers, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

In The Wild is released on August 5 via Hellcat

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