Thursday, November 16, 2017

Duff Review: The Selecter "Daylight"

DMF Records

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Ever since this iteration of The Selecter with Pauline Black, Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson, and (secret weapon) Neil Pyzer began releasing new music, starting with Made in Britain in 2011, each subsequent record has topped the last. Their most recent release, 2015's excellent Subculture (read our ridiculously in-depth review of it), has been surpassed by The Selecter's latest entry Daylight, which may be this band's best record yet.

As one would expect from a 2 Tone act, there are uncompromisingly political songs addressing social, economic, and racial injustice that stimulate one's mind, conscience, and body. The wildly catchy "Frontline" is critical of our smartphone/social media addicted society, where we have significantly more access to (dis)information and each other than ever before in the history of humanity, but actually seem to be increasingly disconnected, numb, and apathetic as a result ("My mind is full/my heart is empty...I need to believe/In something more/Than I wanna stay free"). "Frontline's" reference to the extrajudicial/racial police killing of Eric Garner makes it also a call for real-world, in-person protesting and organizing for justice and change--not Facebook posts that float without impact in the ether of cyberspace. "Taking Back Control" is a potent, fists-in-the-air call to action to counter the rise of ethno-nationalism and right-wing extremism in the UK in the wake of Brexit, while the "arc of history bends towards justice"-themed "Pass the Power" posits that it's long past time that it be given over to "the righteous side." There is great and uncommon empathy expressed in "Paved with Cold" (where the capitalist dream is a nightmare for many), which is sung from the point of view of a lonely homeless person simply trying to survive the winter in a cruel and heartless land ("Spikes where I want to sit...No money is my only crime"). Gaps takes the mic to sing about impending mortality on the Latin ska track "Remember Me" (half its lyrics are in Spanish) and to decry the futility and waste of never-ending war in "Mayhem" (which sounds like it has some Jackie Mittoo/Sound Dimension "Full Up" DNA embedded in there).

But not all is grim in The Selecter's world, Daylight also contains some phenomenally upbeat tunes. "Daylight" is a 1960s AM pop radio ska/soul gem (with Jools Holland on piano!) about the bliss of being in alive and in love. There's an incredibly sprightly and laid-back reggae groove in "Big Badoof," as Pauline and Gaps urge you to keep your chin up, no matter what comes your way. And perhaps the most extraordinary song on the album is "Things Fall Apart," a joyous, Highlife-tinged ska track about black self-empowerment and interdependence--in addition to being an unequivocal demand for equal rights ("I am the master/The master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul/I can make the centre hold...I'll be/Right here behind you/In whatever you do/I won't desert you...If you take/You'd better give me something back!"). "Things Fall Apart" is a reference to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's novel of the same name about the pernicious effects of British colonialism from an African perspective--and the track's lyrics also relate to books by James Baldwin ("Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "I Am Not Your Negro," an unfinished book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.) and Alex Haley ("Roots"), all of which explore African-American identity, history, and experience in an horrifically racist nation.

Buoyed by an absolutely winning set of songs, this version of The Selecter has never sounded more relaxed and self-assured--Daylight is a triumph!

+ + + + 

No comments: