The Interrupters' In The Wild is the joyous, defiant, liberating sound of a fearless survivor living her best life

Album review: Aimee Interrupter says 'f**k you' to a traumatic, abusive past and embraces life, love and liberty with her family

In The Wild
(Image: © The Interrupters - In The Wild (Hellcat))

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It’s been a long time since it felt like ska was considered anything other than a punchline in the world of music. The sound, or rather the American take on the sound, may have had something of a commercial peak in the early 2000s, but for well over a decade it's been hard to think of a rock genre that is deemed less “cool”. When you look at some of the chancers from that era, it’s not hard to see why people parrot the phrase “ska sucks” so often, but if you’re familiar with the roots and ideology of a musical form music that dates all the way back to the 1950s, it’s frustrating to see a style with so much to offer be so readily dismissed.

Ska, you see, doesn’t have to be wacky pop-punk songs about beer or comedy 80s cover songs with the trombones turned up to 11: it has a history filled with revolution, multiculturalism, political and socially conscious intent, unity and empowerment. A history that was starting to feel like it was being erased. Until The Interrupters came along. 

It’s a stretch to say that there is a revival happening when it is really just one band leading it, but The Interrupters really do seem to be single-handedly reminding people that, if done with the right amount of reverence, then this music can be a beautiful thing.

Three albums into their decade-long career and they appear to be the only artists in their lifetime that have rediscovered that sweet spot, and, if their impressive growth is any indication, it’s clear that there is still a thirst for ska if it’s done well. The band cracked the top 150 of the Billboard 200 with 2018’s Fight the Good Fight album and will headline the prestigious, 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy when they come to London as part of their UK tour next month.

So, what exactly is it that makes The Interrupters stand alone? Well, In The Wild has plenty of answers. The most clear and obvious one is the presence of genuine star quality in the form of vocalist Aimee Interrupter (née Allen).

On the first three Interrupters album, Aimee had marked herself out as a real force; part Joan Jett, part Tim Armstrong from Rancid, her voice has a distinct range, timbre and character and she was able to pen tales of friendship, passion and overcoming adversity in classic street punk style. She’s always been great, but here she fearlessly delves even deeper into the personal turmoil and trauma of her past with frankly astonishing results. 

On the opening track Anything Was Better she sings 'anything was better than where I was from', in reference to her turbulent, troubled early years in foster care, with the kind of steely-eyed determination that is both inspiring and moving. On the chugging new wave of Jailbird she candidly opens up about her struggles with anxiety and depression and Let ‘Em Go sees her free herself from the mental shackles of her former abusive relationships. 

If this is making In The Wild sound too dark or depressing, then you couldn't be more wrong: this is the sound of defiance, the acknowledgement of her scars, but also a celebration of her survival. Take As We Live with 'fifth Interrupter' Tim Armstrong and Two-Tone legend Rhoda Dakar from the Bodysnatchers sharing the mic with Aimee to sing 'Long as I'm breathing, I am renewing'. Three generations, united, unbroken.

The Interruptors' success is all possible because the band that back Aimee, the Bivona brothers - Kevin on guitar, Jesse on drums and Justin on bass - have an incredible knack of penning timeless-sounding street punk, dub, rock 'n' roll and Two-Tone ragers. No matter the subject matter, this is a band that continually sound joyous.

Rancid, whose patronage has been such an important part of helping to raise the profile of The Interrupters, are an obvious sonic comparison here, as they too are an amalgam of many styles of punk rock and seem to exist purely to inspire an impassioned response from the listener, but there are plenty of other artist that The Interrupters recall.

On the beautiful My Heart, a tribute to Aimee’s dog Daisy who passed away in 2018, the band sound as if they’re paying homage to 1950s teen tragedy songs such as The Shangri-La's Leader of the Pack, and will surely reduce any pet owners to a blubbering mess. Burdens is a song with a simple message about enjoying every moment of your life that features Greg and Alex from reggae legends Hepcat, and is classic ska in the vein of Prince Buster, rather than, say, Less Than Jake. And closing track Alien is a soaring piano power ballad about Aimee’s endless struggle to feel she fits into society, that, honestly, wouldn’t seem out of place on a Lady Gaga album. 

In The Wild is without question the broadest album The Interrupters have ever released, and that evolution is certainly necessary for a band that are growing in stature in the rate that they are, yet it retains the grounded relatability, effervescent drive and world class hooks and songwriting that has made them the ska-punk band of the last decade. Doubt us? Give the brilliant Raised By Wolves one listen and then try and remove that irresistible chorus from your brain. Trust us, it’s not going anywhere and neither are they.

Ska might not be cool anymore, but The Interrupters are. 

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.