Label: Rebel Alliance Recordings Release date: 4/05/09 Website: MySpace Buy: Amazon South Londoners Mouthwash have not released material since 2001, so highly anticipated album True Stories ought to have eight years of practise and development behind it. On hearing the first track, it sounded less like a wizened band of experienced musicians, and more like young prodigies lost in a whirlwind of ultra-modern London grime music. I was expecting an album of experimental madness, impossible to pigeon hole and impossible to fathom, à la Sonic Boom Six. However, a few songs in and it calms down, only occasionally fusing heavy rock and heavy electronics with otherwise light ska music. When I say 'calms down', it still sounds like the product of a strange orgy between Akon, Hadouken!, Reuben and The Specials. Does that sound negative? Well, it wasn’t meant as a put down. From the off, this album is thrilling, rich in edgy and catchy guitar licks, well-sung and well-played by all the instrumentalists. The drum-driven tracks with their wandering bass parts are the best: 'Southbound', 'The Sound' and 'What I Don't Know' are all memorable and varied enough musically to deserve a second, and third play. Also, the more experimental tracks like 'Ask And It Is Given' and 'Dark Was The Night' (both beginning with an apocalyptic grime bassline) are an interesting listen. However, True Stories leaves me a little cold. The lyrics are nothing to write home about, mainly built around daily-life clichés, and the sound gets very repetitive across a whole album, similar vocal harmonies, melodies and guitar timbre starting to grate on the nerves. It could be that the production has stifled the raw feel which would satisfy punk or ska criteria: it loses some of its excitement in the mix. For those who have waited a long time for this album, I don’t think it will be spectacular enough to impress. But it's a lot better than average - and it's worth listening to just to find out what ska-punk is. (I would call it skunk, but the genre has already officially been claimed by the wonderful skiffle-punk comedy band Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs.) Rating: 7/10 Buy: Amazon