Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: The Bartenders "Tańcz I Klaszcz" b/w "Cebron" and Capitol 1212 featuring Earl 16 "Love Will Tear Us Apart" b/w "Version"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)
  • The cover illustration features a woman's legs dancing on the Moon with two sets of hands clapping.
     While The Bartenders' songs on their sensational new 45 "Tańcz I Klaszcz" ("Dance and Clap") b/w "Cebron" ("Onion") (Vinyl single, Bad Look Records, 2020) are sung in Polish--which might be a perceived barrier for some non-Polish speakers--their music is in the unmistakably universal (and accessible) language of ska. "Tańcz I Klaszcz" is a driving, Motown-like ska track that sure delivers on what's promised (commanded?) in the title/chorus (I wish I knew what was being sung about in the verses--it sure sounds like there's drama and heartbreak in there). In contrast, "Cebron" is a lovely and slightly mysterious jazzy ska cut with a great horn riff. This single is very much worth tracking down--be sure to keep The Bartenders on your radar.
On a side note, this year The Bartenders also released a tribute album to a fantastic all-female, pop, big-beat, and ska Polish group called Alibabki that was founded in 1963 and performed up through the late-'80s. Of note to Duff Guide to Ska readers, in 1965 they released the Jamajca Ska EPwhich contained pop-ska originals (like "Echo Ska") and covers ("Wash Wash Ska," a version of Byron Lee, Keith Lyn, and Ken Lazarus' "Jamaica Ska"), and clearly had a big impact on The Bartenders. More recently, Alibabki released a postcard Flexi ska single backed The Bartenders called "Już Nie Twist."
  • The paper label of the single features the name of the artist, the song title, and the imprint, Happy People Records.
     Joy Division's Ian Curtis was such an enormous fan of reggae that his bandmates, who formed New Order after Curtis' death by suicide in 1980, covered Curtis' favorite reggae track--Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On"--during their 1982 John Peel session for the BBC's Radio One (the EP of this session is very much worth obtaining). In fact, there's a lyric in Curtis' most iconic Joy Division track "Love Will Tear Us Apart" ("Why is the bedroom so cold?/You've turned away on your side...") that was no doubt inspired by Hudson's song ("Turn the heater on...Tonight/For I feel so cold at night/With you by my side will be all I need"). With this Ian Curtis--Keith Hudson connection in mind, it makes sense that a few reggae covers of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" already have been recorded (by Jäh Division and Italee), though Capitol 1212 featuring Earl 16's is the best I've heard by far. Originally released on the 2018 Scotch Bonnet compilation Puffer's Choice, Volume II, Capitol 1212 featuring Earl 16's killer roots reggae version of "Love..."--with echoey, almost jungle-sounding percussion that honors the original and gives what could have become too much of a dirge some life--is now available as a single with an exclusive dub mix on the B-side (Vinyl single/digital, Happy People Records, 2020). This version of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" checks all of the right boxes and then some for anyone who loves both their post-punk and roots reggae like I do.

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