Review by: Gimpleg

Days Gone By is Coolie Ranx’s labor of love debut album to be released under his own name. After 20 years of being the front for The Pilfers, and playing in several other bands, this is the first time he’s ventured out to put his own name on a project. The songs on Days Gone By are the familiar reggae, ska, and raggacore that fans of The Pilfers might already be familiar with, and are reflections and depictions of Coolie’s life, his surroundings, and his experiences throughout his life. Mixed in with these songs, the album has several excerpts from an interview with Shaun Walsh where Coolie Ranx recounts specific thoughts or memories the relate to the subjects of the album and help frame the songs for the listener.

The album begins with a track that is Coolie introducing himself to the listener and his music- literally just a 48 second introduction, saying this is Coolie Ranx and introducing you to the type of rhythms to expect on the album before it slips into the first real track of the album- “My Surroundings”. This song is a slower track, with some jazzy elements singing about street violence, especially among young people, not being able to see the big picture of violence being a part of the system to keep people angry and fighting each other. The track features a spoken word poem by Karen Gibson Roc that  mirrors some of the messages of the song, including religious references- which appear throughout the album- but also calls for unity and coming together to address the issues.

After this track we get our first of the three interludes- the excerpts from an interview with Shaun Walsh. In the first interview he is talking about racial unity being the foundation for ska as a genre in response to a question regarding the murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests. This segues into “Incredible”, the second single released for the album. “Incredible” begins almost like a rock influenced reggae song for two verses as Coolie reiterates some of the messages from the previous track “put your gun away, I am not your enemy. We have enough resources for all humanity. If we distribute the wealth there’s no need for greed now as I live and breathe we shall be free”. This leads to a small instrumental portion where the rhythm of the song slows down and the Jamaican reggae and island ska pick up. When the vocals come back, Coolie shifts to a more raggacore style, the lyrics take on an island dialect and style, as he continues to reiterate the message to a different audience while weaving the rhythm of the song seamlessly through the stylistic shift.

But don’t think this is the only message of the album. The next track “Jenny Jen Jen” is a love song- but it is also a love song where Coolie is apologizing for mistakes he made. This is another theme in this album- the narrator in this album is not a perfect character. There are several songs where he is apologizing or recognizing mistakes in his youth. There is a lot of personal growth shown in the protagonist in this album- which feels like a life lesson we could all learn from. For example, in the next track, “Oh Girl”, the narrator wakes up, hungry and without food, puts on a ski mask and goes out with his gun. But in the next verse he is asking for forgiveness. Similarly, in “Incredible” he ends the song by saying if you wage war with one another, or if you are manipulative and scheming, to stay out of his life. These songs all have themes that we are all imperfect, but also, we need to strive to be better, that there are systems in place that oppress us, and the only way to rise up is to work together and be our best.

In “Flippin Pages” Coolie sings about his relationship with religion, overcoming conflict, and his faith in general over a Jamaican ska track that has a great fast paced rap verse halfway through the song and ends on a slow melodious harmony. It’s nice to have an artist sing about something as personal as their relationship with religion while also singing about injustice, systemic problems, and their own flaws. This song really helps to highlight how personal the album is. 

The back half of the album repeats most of the same themes as the front half of the album and has several of the best songs on the album. “All Dem Ah Try”, and “Keep Fighting” are my two favorite songs on the album, and the final song, “Days Gone By”, feels like the most personal song as Coolie recounts the story of losing his best friend to gun violence, and some of the impacts that had on his life. Altogether, this is an incredibly powerful and authentic album that is true to Jamaican ska and raggacore while sounding fresh and engaging and telling an intimate story that needs to be heard.


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