S.I.B.: Third World War 12” (LM Records, 1981)
This week I have another pick for which I have little historical or background information. I first heard of Italy’s S.I.B. in kind of a weird way. I was in a band called No Love, and sometime early in our run, someone (I can’t remember who) told me we reminded them of S.I.B. I checked out the band and could hear the similarities, but more to the point I liked what I heard from S.I.B. and added their LP to my want list. It took at least five years to come across a copy for a price I could live with, but that moment eventually arrived.
It’s funny, when this record showed up and I first listened to it at home, my partner said “is this Elizabeth from No Love?” Tracy Crazy really sounds so much like Elizabeth. I know there are a few No Love fans out there, so if you like Elizabeth’s vocals, check this out. The music, though, is pretty different. While half of the record is anthemic punk, about half of Third World War features reggae elements. When I first heard the record, I thought the reggae songs were skippers, but since I got the vinyl, I’ve been enjoying these tracks a lot. I think S.I.B. had a talent for reggae, and their songs in that vein are powerful and memorable.
I only found a few mentions of S.I.B. online, and most of the info people have comes from the bio on their Discogs page, which seems like it was created by one of the band members. S.I.B. was from a small town in Italy, and the band was an alliance between some members who were more into punk and others who were more into new wave, and according to the bio, there was tension between these two factions which led the band to break up. That split is even clear in the two bands S.I.B. names as their chief influences: the Sex Pistols and the Police. While S.I.B. doesn’t sound like the Pistols (who does?), you can hear similarities to groups who took cues from them like the Avengers (who share a powerful, anthemic vocal sound) and the UK Subs (the closest sound-alike to S.I.B.’s punk tracks). Aside from the general reggae vibes, you can hear the Police influence on “The Hero,” whose main riff is a cool arpeggiated guitar line that one could imagine coming from Andy Summers.
While it’s tempting to sort out the punk numbers from the reggae-influenced ones, one of the things I like most about Third World War is that all the songs differ from one another. “Nuclear Spy” is an obvious standout with its big chorus, but it also shares some of the Specials’ quirky exuberance. Album closer “No Moon Out Tonight” is a menacing track that rides its sinister two chords for a full five minutes, while “Boys” has a quirky new wave / ska sound that might remind you of early XTC, Kleenex, or even the B-52’s. Whoever wrote the bio on the band’s Discogs page complains Third World War has a weak sound compared S.I.B.’s punkier live performances, but I think S.I.B.’s powerful playing carries through the remarkable range of styles on the record.
Surprisingly, given the band’s obscurity, Third World War is available on streaming services. So if I’ve piqued your curiosity, dial it up and see what you think!