Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
The Interrupters is a ska punk band based out of Los Angeles and are primarily a vehicle for lead singer Aimee Allen, who had attempted a solo career before forming the group and re-christening herself (what else?) Aimee Interrupter (even a subtle nod to the Ramones is always a good sign). The band’s fourth album In the Wild, however, would never be able to disguise itself as anything other than what it is: a fun, fast, tight whirl of a disc, the type of record that people used to listen to three times in a row on the day they brought it home and then once a day for two weeks thereafter.
The classic ska punk sound is definitely the most prevalent on the album, anchoring solid tracks like “The Hard Way,” “Let ‘em Go” and “Worst for Me.” Allen and the band wouldn’t seem to need outside help on that front, yet they get it, and it serves them well. Two members of the band Hepcat add extra purr to “Burdens,” while Tim Armstrong (Rancid) appears on “As We Live,” along with Rhoda Dakar, a significant figure from the original 2-tone ska revival. However, non-stop ska can get just a bit tedious, so the band explores other rock genres, with mostly winning results. “Jailbird” is closer to classic ’80s new wave, reminding one of the early work of Kim Wilde (particularly her 1981 single “Chequered Love”). “Afterthought,” by contrast, is closer to Social Distortion.
“Raised by Wolves” is also a fairly straightforward rocker which uses the phrase of the title as a metaphor for what happens to someone who feels they’d been abandoned while young (whether it’s abandoned literally or just emotionally). Thematically, the band goes a bit more positive or at least defiant with “Kiss the Ground” (“Sometimes when you’re low // You gotta kiss the ground”) which is also the album’s exploration into pure reggae (the rebellious child of original Jamaican ska). Possibly the oddest duck to be found on Into the Wild is “My Heart,” a would-be tribute to ’50s doo-wop. The band seems to approach the track – and the style – with condescendence, as if they’re mocking the song while they’re performing it. The Interrupters seemingly try to capture the timeless essence of teenage heartbreak, which they do a lot more effectively when they get back into their comfort zone (ska) on “Love Never Dies.”
Allen has publically cited Joan Jett as her major influence, and this is unquestionably clear while listening to Into the Wild. However, Allen’s voice and general approach will probably just as often remind listeners of the late Kim Shattuck, who fronted ’90s alternative band the Muffs. That period also saw a number of successful female-fronted pop ska bands such as Save Ferris, the Dancehall Crashers, and of course Gwen Stefani and No Doubt (although they were already moving away from their ska roots when they broke big). But those frontwomen were all overtly feminine, while Allen’s approach comes off as tough, streetwise, and even comparatively masculine or at the very least androgynous (she even sings, “My bones are like the bars of a jail // And I’ve never felt completely female” on closing track “Alien”). So all told, it’s a new approach to a familiar sound, and for the most part, it works seamlessly. For music in general and certainly rock, we’re currently living in a fairly mediocre era. With the explosive energy of In the Wild, Aimee Allen, and The Interrupters are just the ones to interrupt that.