Hailing from a city notorious for its troubled past, Pocket Billiards are something of a mystery. When one thinks of Ska and its related genres, ones mind instinctively thinks of Coventry, London to a lesser extent and certainly not Belfast. It seems odd that a province which has produced some excellent, albeit rather plain, pop in the form of Ash and Snow Patrol, could birth a band as original and exciting as Pocket Billiards.
On the surface, and at first listern, Pocket Billiards come across as a standard Ska band, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as The Specials and The Selecter, with hints of Operation Ivy and Rancid. On further listening, one realises that there is a lot more going on than is first apparent.
The first thing is that Pocket Billiards are the product of both the classical Ska era of the 80s, and the upbeat, American Ska-Punk of the 90s. For lesser musicians, striking a balance between the traditional sensibilities of Ska and the more aggressive nature of Ska-Punk would be an impossible burden. Not so for Pocket Billiards. Their musicianship is excellent and the melodies infectious, yet they maintain a sense of aggression, anger, and good humour so unique to life in Northern Ireland which is otherwise absent from classical Ska.
Its also worth pointing out that the songwriting on this album is top notch. From the nihilistic 'Belfast Town' to the ode to debauchery that is 'Drunken Waster', each song has its own wry humour and makes its observations without compunction or condemnation. A contagious energy permeates the album, and one only has to imagine how that enery must become amplified in their live shows. The aptly named Chris Savage provides vocals, and his husky, Northern Irish accent compliments the music perfectly.
All in all, Pocket Billiards offer something new for fans of all music, Ska and Ska-Punk fans in particular.