Monday, June 18, 2018

Duff Review: The English Beat "Here We Go Love!"

Here We Go/Megaforce Records

(Review by Steve Shafer)

First off--to address the question foremost in fans' minds--Here We Go Love! is a terrific record, full of good-to-stellar original songs and strong performances throughout. Musically, the album picks up where Special Beat Service left off, at a point when the band already had moved far afield from the taut 2 Tone ska of their debut. There is, of course, a good amount of ska and reggae here to please the ska faithful, along with even more New Wave-y pop, rhythm and blues, and soul for the fans who came later. But it's not the styles, it's the songs the carry the day.

The passage of time and accumulated miles on the road haven't diminished Wakeling's considerable songwriting skills--several tracks were embedded in my head from the first listen and many of the songs on Here We Go Love! are worthy additions to his musical canon. The phenomenal Motown-ish "You Really Oughtta Know By Now" ("...but, oh no, you just don't do you") is probably the top cut on the album (and manages to sneak in a nice nod to "Tears of A Clown" while at it), while the sizzling, Stax-infused "Every Time You Told Me" (about knowing you're being played) is a close second. But it doesn't end there. The could be a pop/film soundtrack hit "The One and the Only" might be about Trump or any other supremely narcissistic and cruel person in your life ("Funny how hate can be/He won't hear your crying/Won't have the time of day/He just walks on by/And it's like he doesn't notice/Yeah right..."). Like the great single off this album "How Can You Stand There?," the ska track "Redemption Time" is about failing to stand up to fight injustice--in this case, opposing the status quo and actually doing something to slow down/halt climate change (and its title reminds one of Max Romeo's "Revelation Time" or Willie William's/The Clash's "Armagideon Time" in that all of us and our planet may be in the end times if we don't start changing our ways drastically and immediately...). The "I-can't-believe-how-stupid-it-is-that-we-have-to-still-protest-this-shit" anti-war song "If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now" ("We're all grunts in the human army/Four million at war and one billion starving/Sick to death of those old boys' rules/We'll make our future or we'll die like fools") is brilliant for both its catchiness and humane logic.

It might have been preferable to bill this venture as "Dave Wakeling of The English Beat," as it's clearly his show (no other performers are listed in the CD credits, though they are on The English Beat website) and without the full participation of other members of The Beat in the band, it's not quite in the same vein as The Beat of old. Having said that, several Beat members and associates did have a part in this album (though you're mostly left wondering as to exactly where): Everett Morton is listed as playing congas; the dear, departed Saxa clearly helped with the sax lines for "If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now"--unfortunately, an injury prevented him from actually playing on the album before his passing; and Andy Cox (!) made snipping sounds with garden shears on "You're Stuck" (also, The Specials' Roddy Radiation guested on guitar and The Aggrolites' Roger Rivas played some organ). Liner-notes obsessives will be interested to know that Bob Sargeant (who, of course, beautifully produced the first three Beat albums, as well as records for The Ruts, XTC, The Damned, Fine Young Cannibals, and many of John Peel's BBC sessions with post-punk bands like The Fall, Buzzcocks, Gary Numan, Gang of Four, as well as Madness and The Specials) was one of the executive producers of this album; and Hunt Emerson, who designed the iconic Beat Girl logo and striking cover artwork for I Just Can't Stop It and Wha'ppen?, has created fantastic artwork for this release!

Despite its prolonged gestation, Dave Wakeling deserves full credit for (finally!) moving ahead with excellent new material (like his peers in Madness, The Selecter, and Bodysnatchers who have released amazing records over the past few years) and not relying solely on nostalgia and former glories (and the first three Beat albums were glorious!) to keep on filling the venues while touring non-stop. Here's to hoping that Here We Go Love! marks the beginning of a new and prolific creative phase for Wakeling. He's still got the goods and then some...

+ + + +

No comments: