One Random Single a Day #85: “Nobody” (2004) by Skindred

As I mentioned in my single review for Intwine’s “Happy?”, a good portion of my development as a music listener and lover was defined by my high school days when I was so much more into harder rock and metal than I am these days. This was when I was consistently listening to bands like Slipknot, Children of Bodom, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin – basically a lot of what was on constant replay on the TV channel Fuse (back when it was still devoted to punk, metal, and other threads of the contemporary rock scene). Somewhere in this lineup, I stumbled upon Skindred; while I listened to a few of their other singles during this time, “Nobody” seems to be their most synonymous and the only one that has really stuck with me all these years.

Though, it’s hard not to admit from this single alone that the band possesses a relatively unique sound to their style. The most prominent element in their sound, besides their adherence to the nu-metal genre that combines rap and metal stylings for a decidedly aggressive sound, is the additional incorporation of reggae elements to the mix. I think I’ve always assumed when I was in high school that this band was from Jamaica, but after learning that they are actually from Wales, I decided to search a bit deeper to see if the band had any actual Jamaican roots. It turns out that they probably don’t, even though lead singer Benji Webbe has noted that his upbringing gave him artistic influence from a variety of cultures. He has noted his music as a method of keeping in touch with his blackness – but I’m not so sure that the appropriation of Jamaican culture is the way to do so (I’m probably not the one to speak on this behalf, though, so take my words with a grain of salt…).

The song grabs the listener right from the start with some searing power chords undercutting Webbe’s vicious entrance with the opening lines, “My sound we come to take over / MC, you better look over your shoulder”. For the most part, these lyrics follow along these same thematic angles. It’s music about music, particularly about the unique blend of “ragga metal punk hip-hop” that emits from Skindred’s instruments. Peppered throughout are some more rough and ragged power chords, intense high-octane drumming, and Webbe’s alteration between jagged, nasally singing and throaty, guttural screams. For the most part, it follows along the typical tropes and formulas of many similar hard rock and nu-metal groups, but the clearly defined Jamaican edge gives this song a pretty distinct flair through and through.

Still, after about halfway through, the song tends to double and triple upon itself in ways very typical of some of the laziest writing to come around the scene. I wish I could say that Skindred’s style extends beyond the surface-level appeal of the “reggae-metal” label, but it really doesn’t. While there are some bits in the song where the juxtaposition between Webbe’s traditional singing and harder screams seem justified and even pretty cool, for the most part it feels just as try-hard and superfluous as a number of other bands of the sub-genre. It’s hard not to see their sound as some sort of gimmick when the lyrics and production of the recording sounds just like everything else. It also doesn’t help that this happened just a little less than a year ago – which honestly makes the band’s music even more unlistenable than it already kind of is. Oh well – it’s not like I missed Skindred much in the first place.

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