Album Review // REFILL by Umbrella Bed

By Kevin Tshiamala

The world of music for the few of us didn’t start with hip hop, pop, R&B or techno. It started with punk rock and ska. The differences between skin heads and rude boys seemed few and far in between. They both had a cockeyed view of the world, both socially unaccepted, they both sported uniforms, they both had a reputation for disruption, and both had heavy dance oriented music. On one hand you have the mosh pit, on the other, the Ska pit. In both casualties are expected, but one is more brutal than the other. With both genres and cultures further dwindling in the music industry it is rare to find a band that you can be sure to mark your calendar, dust off the old boots and get ready for either pit. Now that the days of the Mad Caddies, The Specials, Less Than Jake, and The Beat are practically over, bands like Umbrella Bed are needed more than ever to continue a critically endangered culture.

Umbrella Bed (Hellrock, Al Teagarden, Eva Washburn, Dutch Buddha, DJ WayCool, Franknos, and Rude Boy Bandit) was formed in 1995 and struggled like most did with the decline in second wave and the immergence of third wave ska. Fortunately their foundations of 2Tone gave them room to explore experiment and infuse punk, alternative, Latin, and grunge music into their music. Due to their loyal Twin City following, musicianship, and support from powerhouses like the Skatalites, Mustard Plug, English Beat and the Specials, Umbrella Bed has been able to tour the world and challenge the intricate sounds of ska for close to two decades.

Umbrella Bed’s new EP, REFILL, is composed of six 2Tone dub, ska heavy tracks. The opener, “Wish that it would Stop,” infuses reggae, ska, and a bit of alternative rock filling that void left by the absence of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The next song “Gone Away” is filled with an easy ska rhythm, empty lyrics, and like all ska bands the vocals are horrendous. That’s not why you listen to 2Tone. You don’t go to the show for seranades, you go to flail your legs and wave your arms. You go to skank. Do not fret, the next two songs “Got it Wrong Now” and “2Tone” are true skank anthems. It is no wonder the band originating from Minnesota have been crowned the 2Tone monsters by fellow, journalists, fans and enthusiasts. The album rounds out with “Monster” and “Dub Away.”

Surviving close to two decades in the music industry is a close to impossible feat. Umbrella Bed has managed to do so in a genre that lost its spark in the early 90’s. If you’re wondering why, how, well I advise you to take a listen to their EP REFILL.

For more information on Umbrella Bed please visit their official website:

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