The Beat new Album
The Beat (or The English Beat for our US readers) were founded back in 1978 in Birmingham, during a period of high unemployment and social upheaval in the UK. Their unique style combines ska, pop, soul and even some punk rock, mixed up with a massive chunk of reggae – no doubt helped along by Ranking Roger’s Jamaican toasting style of vocals.
They released three studio albums back in the Eighties, and toured with the likes of David Bowie (RIP), The Clash, The Police and REM all over the world. They have also toured with The Pretenders and Talking Heads in the USA under the name The English Beat, so that they were not confused with the American rock band of a similar name, The Beat.
The Beat enjoyed decent popularity mainly in the UK between 1978 and 1983, although managed to score fan bases in North America and Australia thanks to mainstream radio play, before they split in 1983.
The members enjoyed various success until a reunion of sorts happened in 2003, when they played the Royal Festival Hall to a sold out crowd; and both US and UK versions of the band are still touring relatively frequently. Ranking Roger fronts the UK version; whilst Dan Wakeling, the co-founder and vocalist of the original line-up fronts the US version – the English Beat.
2016 brings a new album from The Beat ft. Ranking Roger, titled ‘Bounce’ which is their fourth studio album – although the first in over thirty years, with the first single Walking on the Wrong Side released back in July. 2017 will also be bringing a new crowdfunded album from the US outfit The English Beat ft. Dave Wakeling, with the potential title ‘Here We Go Love’.
‘Bounce’ brings the Eighties band nicely back into the Naughties with an awesome blend of reggae and ska, Ranking Roger’s vocals adding a delicious Jamaican flavour to the delightful mix.
The album gets straight into the swing of reggae goodness, with the first single Walking on the Wrong Side, which is a great opener for the album. Ranking Roger’s vocals are strong and hypnotic, and the track has a decent chilled out vibe with a catchy chorus. The quality continues with Busy Busy Doing Nothing which is another powerful track with clear-cut reggae sounds, a hooky chorus and more silky smooth vocals.
Heaven Hiding opens with a intro that points more towards a ska direction, taking the album to a more poppy sound, with chanting and soft vocals. It is not what I would call the stronger track on the album, Walking… and Busy… hitting a much better vibe, though Heaven is more in keeping with The Beat’s older tracks.
Avoid the Obvious takes you on another musical twist with the album, this time taking on a ska/punk rock sound; but it’s a decent track, coinciding with Heaven…and Fire Burn which all set the album on a far more chilled, relaxed pace. Fire Burn is especially stunning as it opens with a nice saxophone piece and strong reggae drums, along with more hypnotising vocals as the slow track winds on – Ranking Roger’s voice still manages to impress after thirty years and still sounding very close to how he did in the Eighties.
On My Way and Work Work Work take the album back onto the traditional upbeat reggae direction, the former a serious contender for my favourite track; with beautiful sax work and a chorus that you can’t help but jive along to. The latter has a more ska vibe to it with pop influences; with a catchy chorus and more great sax work.
Talkin’ about Her and Close the Door bring the pace back down to a calm demeanour once more, with ska and reggae attitude prolific on both tracks. Talkin’ is a nice catchy tune with a decent slab of organ and more stunning sax playing, with a mind-blowing toasting section from Ranking midway through. The latter has more synth and haunting vocals and is another slow track, raising the bar again by surprising you with the content this album has to offer. Family is the final track and a soft acoustic finale to the album, slowing down the pace even more; and pairing the beautiful sound with poignant female vocals.
I think ‘Bounce’ is a spectacular comeback for The Beat and stays true to their original formula, whilst also managing to bring the band up to date for the Naughties. I liked every moment of this album, even if I liked some tracks more than others – but all of the songs were immensely enjoyable and I must admit – I danced the whole time I listened to it. I would say the album is definitely worth picking up – even if reggae isn’t your thing, pop and ska fans alike can all share appreciation for this fine record.