Skating Polly’s 5th Studio Album “The Make it All Show” was released way back in March 2018.
The band announced on 2nd January 2020 that the 6th studio album would be released that summer – but as you can probably guess, the pandemic put paid to that.
I remember the date because I’d just had a bit of a health scare literally before seeing the post, a lot was going through my mind, but the news of a new Skating Polly album, managed to take my mind of it just enough until I saw a GP a few weeks later. (Fortunately it turned out to be nothing serious.)
It made me realise just how important music can be in helping us get through lifes bumps.
After a number of other delays along the way, the new album, Chaos County Line is finally due for release on 23rd June 2023.
But what happens when your favourite band release their new album after a 5-year gap?
Firstly, there was panic – what if I don’t like it?
I’ve loved the bands previous albums, but 5 years is a long time, and people’s music tastes can change significantly over that time. What if the band’s tastes had gone in one direction, and mine in the other?
But then I do have a nasty habit of catastrophising – kind of useful at work, where pondering over all the things that could go wrong if I change a line of code has saved my bacon on many occasions, not so good in everyday life.
Realistically, I already loved the new tracks they’d played live and couldn’t wait to hear the studio versions, so the odds of me hating this album were low.
Indeed, Skating Polly pack so much creativity and ideas into their music that they could put out an album of Coldplay covers, and I’d probably enjoy it – saying that I hope they never put that theory to the test.
In true Skating Polly fashion – a band who never do things by halves (how many bands record a music video for every track on their album for example?), you wait 5 years for an album, and you get a double comprising of 18 tracks!
My first few listens were a bit of a haze – a mixture of excitement, disbelief that I had the much-anticipated new Skating Polly album in my grubby little virtual paws, apprehension in case I didn’t like it, frustration that having an early copy meant I couldn’t ask fellow fans what they think of it, not to mention “I’ve got a TON of work that needs to be done for work tomorrow, I SHOULD really listen to it later in the week”. Life sometimes gets in the way of quality music listening time.
Sure enough, with a few more plays the mist began to clear and tracks started popping out at me as a “wow” track, and indeed I think every track on the album has jumped out at me at least once. And when the band talk about the singles that have been released so far, it adds a whole new depth to the songs.
Back in the day I used to have pen pals whom I’d exchange mix tapes of new music with, and I tended to follow a slow track with a loud one that would make Ace of Spades by Motorhead sound like a ballad by comparison.
I always thought it sounded great, but listening to Chaos County Line where slow tracks are followed by bangers, I found it a bit disconcerting on early listens. Now that I’m more familiar with the tracks I love it, but whilst you are still getting to know the tunes it can be a bit challenging, so watch out for that.
It’s an album worth making quality time for to sit down and really appreciate it. Something we don’t do often enough in the digital age, and one reason I still buy vinyl (as well as supporting bands) even though a friend pointed out that you can recreate the vinyl experience on Sonos by frying some sausages whilst you listen 🙂
The good news is that after stress-testing 2023’s Chaos County Line to the point where I’d be skipping tracks on most albums, I’m happy to report that IMHO there are no sub-par filler tracks – it’s 18 tracks of perfection to my ears, even if some tracks take more listens to fully appreciate than others.
Since I discovered Skating Polly in 2019, other bands haven’t been able to quite reach the benchmark they have set, and they’ve just raised it once again.
I know some fans who enjoyed “Make it All Show” but preferred the previous album “The Big Fit” since it was slightly rawer and had heavier tracks such as “Hey Sweet” and “Nothing More Than a Body”.
Well, although Chaos County Line is another step more polished than “The Make it All Show”, with tracks like “Send A Priest” and “Man Out There” the heavy tracks are back, and heavier than ever!
Whilst I can never pick a favourite track on their albums, I would say that “Tiger at The Drugstore” is an extra special track – if you can listen to it without goosebumps you’re probably already dead! Unashamedly pop enough to win over more mainstream fans, quirky enough to keep existing fans on board.
The album is truly a desert island disc – there’s so much variety between upbeat bangers to slow ballads, Kelli Songs and Peyton Songs, there’s even a hint of country on “Not Going Back Again”. if you could only choose 1 album to listen to for the rest of your life – you couldn’t do better than this one, it’s got all the music you really need, spread across 18 wonderful tracks!
If you’re an existing fan I think you’re going to love it and no doubt agree with me that it’s been well worth the wait – just be prepared that there’s a lot to unpack here, that may take a few listens before you really start to fully appreciate it’s greatness, your patience will be well rewarded.
The band have clearly put their heart and soul into this album, and certainly haven’t been idle over the past 5 years.
Could this be the “breakthrough” album that brings the band to a wider audience?
One of the questions people regularly ask on seeing Skating Polly live for the first time is “Why are they not massive?”
It’s a perplexing question for sure – bands with much less talent get much more media attention.
But even Elvis and The Beatles were playing small clubs until they found someone who could kick doors down and persuade the gatekeepers to let the public hear their music (the public can’t like music they haven’t heard), and these people aren’t always particularly nice, and generally don’t have the artists best interests at heart. Watching Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis bio-pic recently I couldn’t help but feel by the end that despite his huge levels of wealth and global fame, Elvis may have had a happier life playing small clubs and building his fanbase organically. And it’s unlikely John Lennon would have been shot had he not been so mega-famous.
I’d hate to see the band sell their soul to a major label who would mold and gut the band of what makes them special to ease mass consumption and maximise their audience potential, and probably rip them off into the bargain. I’m currently listening to an audible book about the music industry written by a music lawyer and the music industry really is a jungle full of vipers! Kind of makes me glad I’ve zero musical talent!
But equally, with touring and recording costs rising sharply post-pandemic, I’d hate for the band to become unviable economically and call it a day.
It’s too early to say whether Chaos County Line will be the band’s breakthrough album, giving them the commercial success they so richly deserve, but has thus far eluded them.
If enough people get to hear it then I’m confident it will be a hit – but the big question is, will enough people get to hear it?
With so much music being constantly released, and competing with big label budgets, will an album that requires a few listens to fully get it’s brilliance get lost?
But perhaps I’m just catastrophising again and an album this good will find a way!
There are already some positive signs.
Aside from increasingly sold out shows, at time of writing, nearly half a million people watching the band’s live set on Setlist.FM!
They have over 53K monthly listeners on Spotify, for comparison Coach Party, despite having a big(ish) label behind them and being known by more people (in the UK at least), only have 45K. And the video for Coach Party’s FLAG (which looks like it had a really big budget) has 78K views after a year (despite playing to 97,000 people in France supporting Indochine at the Stade De France), compared with 85K views for Skating Polly’s Hickey King after only 3 months.
In a recent song of the week poll on Louder (Publishers of Metal Hammer and Louder Sound) Skating Polly’s single “Send a Priest” got a crazy 97% of the vote – heads and shoulders above The Foo Fighters and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds who were slugging it out for the #1 and #2 album that week.
And that is the #PollyArmy in action!
When I spotted the poll I was the first person to vote for Skating Polly, I posted the link on various forums, and everyone dived in.
Clearly, had someone posted the link in the Foos forums, with being a massive established band the result would have been very different. But that’s missing the point.
With so much music being released all the time, and every conceivable “angle” being used by PR it’s very difficult for music to be “newsworthy” these days.
But when something confounds expectations it piques people’s attention. The Foos or Noel winning that poll wouldn’t surprise anyone – they are massive acts with big promotional teams behind them and a history of chart success.
But a band that most people outwith underground music circles and my long-suffering Facebook friend list haven’t heard of, beating these industry titans may get people’s attention, they may listen to the band and join the ever expanding fanbase.
And if fans post that the result is well deserved (which it is) and then foos fans comment that it’s only because nobody posted the link in their forums, and it goes back and forth and turns into a bit of a bunfight, well sadly that’s how social media promotion seems to work these days, it’s all bullshit but if it means that more people discover the joys of Skating Polly then it’s all good.
I’ve setup a facebook group “Let’s spread the word about Skating Polly” for fans who want to, share ideas, polls / DJs asking for song suggestions etc. Hopefully we can find a clue between us!
When a Radio DJ asks for song suggestions – 1 person suggesting Skating Polly will probably get lost in the deluge of responses. But if 100 people suggest them, even if the DJ ignores it, other people going through the suggestions may be curious why so many people are suggesting the band and check them out.
Some fans don’t like spreading the word about Skating Polly because they enjoy seeing them at small venues. I totally get that – I’d much rather be in a 200 capacity room where you meet the band at the merch stall, than an arena watching the band on a screen. But equally if we want the band to keep going and keep releasing great music, we should give them some support if we can, to get the word out there – especially when touring and recording costs are rising so steeply. Realistically, unless one of us has a big win on the lottery and hire a big promotional team who knows what they are doing, they aren’t going to be playing stadiums due to fan efforts, but maybe we can help them sell out a venue that would have been 90% full – it could make the difference between another tour or not.
Dan Mangan made a good point when he played Manchester recently. He was talking about how rising touring costs meant he was really struggling to make ends meet. They’d sold around 100 tickets for that show, and he made the point that with a 1.5 million population in Greater Manchester, if he can sell 100 tickets, there are bound to be at least another 100 people who would enjoy his show if they got a chance to hear his music. But getting on platforms such as radio with decent reach is an expensive business with no guarantees. Yet if everyone who bought a ticket spread the word and recruited just one more person to buy a ticket, the economics of the show would go from “oh shit” to “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” even if not the lofty heights of “Kerching”.
It was disheartening to see Skating Polly fans complaining that the band didn’t come to their city on the UK tour earlier in the year. With shows in London, Brighton, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle etc, most people should be able to attend a show if they really wanted to. The band had travelled all the way from the USA, their home country fans often have to cross vast states to see them, surely we can spend an hour on a train and a night in a Travelodge to see arguably the best live band on the circuit! I hadn’t left the house since December after fracturing my spine, but there was no way I was missing their show, even though I was in a lot of pain (made better by their performance of course).
Fortunately, many people did make an effort to come and they went down a storm. Let’s hope they return to brighten our drab shores again sooner rather than later!
People don’t talk about music much these days, indeed because I post about Skating Polly so much people ask if I’m their manager (Which makes me laugh, I can barely manage myself let alone a band!) because they can’t believe that someone who is just a fan (and co-promoter of their Liverpool shows, but only because I believe in the band so much) would post without having an economic connection with the band.
The Facebook group may do nothing and go nowhere, gathering virtual dust. But who knows? If we try we might fail, if we don’t try we’ll definitely fail! Join and get yer thinking caps on!
Above all, if you want to support the band why not buy a copy of the album if you can, and get to a show! Streaming is convenient but physical sales at least make the band some money. If you are outside the US make sure you select your country to see the International delivery option. It’s $30 for delivery – but additional copies only add $1 to the cost, so if you know a few people who want the album you could always order together and split postage – just watch out for import duty.
And of course you can join the band’s Patreon where they post regular updates, early mixes of their songs and exclusive covers.
Album of the year (so far, but unlikely to change!)
Chaos County Line is released on El Camino Media on Friday 23rd June 2023, and available on all major streaming platforms.