If 2022 was a sign of things to come, then 2023 is set to be the year of Hardcore, and while bands like Turnstile are reaching the dizzying heights of the Grammys, it should be the self-proclaimed “sports punks” of XL LIFE from South Wales where you should turn your attention for the time being, and with the release of their debut album The Boogie Down South, they’ve shown that they’ve got what it takes to break through.
Opening track ‘Shout’ breaks the silence with its riveting mix of jazz piano and emerging drums, alongside Philipos ‘Traxx’ Davies’ (formerly of Asteroid Boys) punky speech, and it’s from this track where you can really begin to understand exactly why they’re called XL LIFE, with the song, and album, feeling like a tribute to living life to its fullest.
As the opening track ends and the second track ‘If You Want It You Can Get It’ begins, you’re immediately greeted with riffs that begin to creep in under the guise of a dance track before completely exploding, which truly kicks the album into another gear. Despite it’s punky and explosive nature, the album still feels tight and methodical, drummer Jasper Gaskin breezes through each track with spellbinding ease, and bassist Khalid Awad Khan also deserves unending praise, as the hard hitting baselines load the entire album with a sort of rhythmic energy that helps to tie together the signature “sports punk” sound.
Standout track and single ‘Baby Steps‘ demonstrates the prowess of the band’s song writing ability, and with a feature by the iconic Bob Vylan, which feels well-placed, and doesn’t intrude or disrupt the rhythm of the song as a whole. It’s fair to say that this song is arguably one of the best on the album, and is an anthemic rock song that will most certainly see mosh pits split the room in whatever venue the band finds themselves in.
‘Feeling Away’ opens with yet another pulsating bassline alongside guitarwork which embodies punk of old, and its almost impossible not to shake your body to this song, or at the very least, bang your head. ‘Grey Place’ doesn’t let the rhythm disappear either, but plays more with the sound, featuring some well-utilized vocal distortion, as well as some incredibly introspective and heartfelt lyrics – something that debut hardcore albums lack.
‘These Days’ is the penultimate track and is one that is brimming with inspirational lyrics, with Traxx providing an introspective yet positive outlook on how you should live life, with “when tomorrow isn’t promised, we’ve got to make it what we want it to be” demonstrating the XL Life philosophy to its fullest.
The final track ‘Built To Last’ begins with a shouted call before the bristling anger of the instrumental rises up and chugs along right the way through the duration of the track, which shows some of the rougher and heavier side of the band’s capabilities, before gentle fading away into the background.
Overall, The Boogie Down South is an album full of soul and emotion, and is a heartfelt debut from the Welsh band. There is no doubt that XL LIFE is going to be the name on everyone’s lips, and are most certainly a band worth watching out for.