Chances are, you’ve never heard of Ska-P. Musically, they can be described as megaphoned two-tone or party punk, a curious blend of The Specials and The Sex Pistols; lyrically, they pick up where Chumbawamba’s anti-establishment rants left off before they went all folk in the 1990s.
The band started off in 1994 and quickly became favourites across Europe and the Spanish-speaking parts of the world. And therein lies the rub: the band make very few concessions to Anglophones (perhaps as part of their anti-US sentiment). Standing next to Dave who has travelled down from Liverpool, it’s clear that hasn’t stopped hundreds of fans, donning a mixture of piercings and pork pie hats, coming from across the country to see them make their UK debut at the HMV Forum. It’s not hard to see what drew them here. This eight-man band are led by Pulpul, a Mohawk-sporting axeman who spits out polemic over fast, furious and blatantly fun songs. Anyone who finds themselves playing air trumpet the moment they hear Madness’ The Prince would have had a good time here.
Alongside Pulpul, Pipi combines Brit stage favourites Bez and Iron Maiden’s Eddie. When he’s not bouncing around the stage or joining Pulpul on vocals excoriating the likes of Israel, the US, the Pope et al, he climbs inside a bizarre assortment of outfits. Some are simple costume changes – a gorilla outfit with riot shield and “Policia” emblazoned across his chest or a Mystic Meg costume replete with parasol – while others see him aloft stilts to become an eight-foot parody of a priest or Uncle Sam together with similar-sized props (a mitre with which Pipi rubs himself most inappropriately and a scythe respectively).
After about two hours, the show ends with some surreal touches. The drumkit is disassembled and handed out to the musicians who form an impromptu marching band. The trombonist – imagine Brian Blessed in a kilt and with interesting tattoos – takes front-and-centre stage for a solo while Pulpul strips down to his drawers. With some additional one-finger salutes to various authority figures, the band storm off to prepare for their upcoming tour of Argentina. Job done.
Photo (c) Franco Milazzo