In June 2011, a London band by the name of Mouthwash broke up, leaving many in the U.K. ska scene bereft. At one time, they had been signed to Tim Armstrong’s Hellcat Records. It was on that label that they released 1000 Dreams, which celebrated its 20th birthday last month—so let’s listen back.
Theirs is just the sort of sound one would expect Armstrong to lift out of London Town. As the ominous, unmistakable wail of an air raid siren opens the album, the band break into the fast-paced punk of “Drop the Bomb” before a drum fill kicks off pulsating ska in “We Evolve,” which features an irresistible organ part.
Among the mix of punk and ska, there’s a slower number to be found in “Through the Grey,” as well as a rendition of the excellent “Fools Gold” that’s different from the one found on Give ’Em the Boot II. In “Live Like Kings,” meanwhile, we hear a refrain which would reappear in “A Face in the Crowd” later in the band’s career. “Babylondon” is an obvious standout: a catchy, ska singalong whose second half is dominated by MCing.
The mix has a live feel, with prominent bass lines and echoey vocals. These vocals are a defining element, effortlessly complementing any one of the album’s multiple musical styles, whether punk, ska, or hardcore. A hardcore influence is evident, in fact, on “Competing for Frequency,” which comes bursting out of the speakers with furious drums that wouldn’t be out of place on a Minor Threat song.
By the time I began seeing Mouthwash live, they had a different vocalist and a different set of songs, and, although it was this earlier material that turned me on to them, I preferred the latter. However, listening to 1000 Dreams now, it’s clear what a killer album it is.
Every track gets behind your ears and leaves you wanting to listen back to it as soon as it’s over. This is particularly true of the closer, “Saving Grace.” A perfectly-placed piece of acoustic ska, it neatly caps off the musical cauldron that preceded it, with its final chord ringing as one prepares to start the album all over again.
Mouthwash should’ve been big but, alas, it’s been almost a decade since they called it a day. In 1000 Dreams, though, one finds a superb slice of South London ska punk. Nearly ten years on from their break-up, and twice as long since the album’s release, time is ripe for a replay. Seek it out and turn it up.