There’s no two ways about it – if you haven’t seen a Skinny Lister gig, you haven’t snogged their girl singer, swigged booze from a saliva-dripping communal flagon, or held their bassist, and his enormous white double bass, above your head in what is perhaps the least health-n-safety-conscious crowd surf on the circuit. Few bands can match their salty, rum-soaked shanties, sweaty singalong chants, and the overall sense of belonging to an exclusive club that have seen the Skinny light. Except that club isn’t so exclusive any more.
A couple of years ago, they were a pleasant sideshow, a band with a talent for synthesising a glamourous, accessible song from the unlikely components of fishermen’s tunes, English folk, and growing up in Hull. Well, it definitely worked for the Housemartins, and the comparison is an apt one, for Skinny Lister pull on a thread of popular folk music that first drew public attention with Fiddler’s Dram’s Daytrip To Bangor, encompasses The Beautiful South’s romantic boy-girl poppy acoustica – there’s plenty in their catalogue for young lovers – whilst still emulating punk-crossover. If you can squint your eyes hard enough, The Clash are egging them on stage left.
Are we really to believe that they spent seventeen summers in London before they wrote their eponymous song? I think so, because the capital’s influence is finally starting to show – for all their history of provincial squeezebox hoe-downs, and getting wasted on rum ‘n’ ginger, with their latest album The Devil, the Heart & the Fight Skinny Lister are putting their eggs in the basket of big choruses and radio-friendly whoa-oh-ohs. And while nobody would begrudge them such indulgences, I do hope they remember their roots should the man with the big cigar come a-callin’.