Five years passed between the release of 1992's Skinhead and the arrival of Heavy Petting. Bad Manners hadn't taken an extended vacation, they'd been touring and knocking out the occasional song for compilations, but a full-length just wasn't in the cards until now. And after all this time, was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding yes.
The set kicks off with the title track, a storming ska-riffic instrumental, which flames into "Black Night," a song that may mean nothing to the reggae crowds but will send metal fans into a fury of headbanging with the band's inspired cover of this Deep Purple classic. Reaching further back into time, Bad Manners delves into the pop world and emerges with the Monkees' "Randy Scouse Git." The intro is note-perfect, but then the group tosses in the sharp syncopated beats and a fabulous sax solo, utterly transforming this '60s stomper. Equally entertaining is the instrumental "Red River Ska," which delivers up precisely what the title claims. "Lager Delirium" sounds like a cover, but isn't; it's a reggae party in a beer garden -- at which point everyone will "Feel Like Jumping," a pure party piece guaranteed to rock any party sky-high.
Scattered throughout these up-tempo scorchers are relatively quieter numbers, like the cheery "Down Berry Wood"; a clutch of perfect early reggae-flavored gems including the title track, "Happiness," and the teary "Liverpool and Birmingham"; and the dubby "No, No, No." "Go" will inevitably bring to an end every Bad Manners live show for years to come, a jaunty closer riven with sparkling keyboards. So there's something for everyone here: the rejigged lineup sounds fabulous, turning up the temperature then deftly shifting into more delicate gears, as at home with hefty rockers as they are sweet '60s-flavored jewels. Bad Manners returns with a vengeance, and it's like they never left.