“We got the vibes and them vibes are good, good.” These words appear in “Gimme That Boom,” which is both the second song on “Smile” and its first single.

I would argue that these words are more than just a verse; they represent the very essence of the record.

In all honesty, I can’t remember when I first heard the band—probably around 15 years ago when “Roots Rock Riot” had been out for a while. I believe Ginger Wildheart mentioned them in an interview, and I knew about Benji Webbe from his Dub War days.

This is important considering “Smile” marks their quarter-century milestone, and there’s no doubt they know exactly what they’re doing.

The four-piece (the quartet has been together for 20 years) has mastered their craft by this point. I’ve recently seen Skindred a couple of times, opening for Kiss and Volbeat. They commanded the crowd’s attention for 45 minutes in a way that few support bands manage.

All of that skill is present on the most diverse album the band has ever attempted.

I understand what you’re thinking: “All Skindred albums are a melting pot,” and that’s true, but these 12 songs take that concept to another level.

“Our Religion” embodies this and more: “Going round in circles every day it seems to bore me,” sneers Benji, and that’s the point. “We gotta spread this gospel worldwide” is another of its themes.

They’ve been performing many of these tracks at the gigs I mentioned. “…..Boom” is one, and it captures the band at their anthemic best—a hook ready for anything to happen.

Ironically, a song as immediate as that one discusses the modern need for instant gratification. However, “Set Fazers” (another track in their set) shares a similar mindset and is even better.

Although I’ve watched Skindred for years, I didn’t fully appreciate Webbe’s impressive vocals. “Life That’s Free” (an anthem for self-empowerment) is a prime example, along with others.

“If I Could” maintains a mid-paced feel and could pass as a ballad, but nestled within is “L.O.V.E (Smile Please),” a dance hall-infused slice of summer that’s truly glorious.

This signals the album’s second half, which pushes the boundaries further. “This Appointed Love” adds a touch of The Specials’ ska style, and “Black Stars” blends an almost primal drum beat with a plea for change.

The dance influences that define this band are prominent in “State Of The Union,” while “Addicted” sees them searching for the next high over a reggae-flavored groove, and “Mama” beautifully conveys a sentiment of kinship.

The closing track, “Unstoppable,” cleverly plays with rhythms, daring you to challenge them—an endeavor you’d surely lose.

A few years back, I attended a gig with a friend and asked if he was going to see Skindred the following week. He responded that he didn’t consider them “Rock.” I dismissed his notion then, and I still do (I told him as much). However, this attitude exemplifies the type of resistance Skindred has faced for 25 years. They could be angry—probably are—but they’re sitting at number 2 on the charts, channeling negativity into a massive positive.

“Smile” is both uplifting and superb, undoubtedly Skindred’s best album by a mile (rhyme intended).

Rating: 9/10

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