Saturday, July 03, 2010

I Just Can't Stop It (1980)

"Twist & Crawl" The Beat (forced by legal skirmishing to operate as the English Beat in North America, concession to LA singer/songwriter Paul Collins who was heading up a power pop band at the time with the name) were key players in the UK's 2 Tone ska moment of the late '70s and early '80s, along with the Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, and others. It's called "2 Tone" for the obvious reasons and also because that was the name of the label that signed and distributed most of them. Though this debut and the band itself has many of the trappings and even authentic elements of the original ska—most notably in the person of saxophonist Saxa, whose resume extends back to work with Desmond Dekker, Laurel Aitken, Prince Buster, and others—it sounds to me now more like new wave with a Jamaican patois (courtesy vocalist Ranking Roger, nonetheless a Brit): fast tempos, twitchy rhythms, verse-chorus-verse, random and statement-making covers ironic and otherwise (Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown," Andy Williams's "Can't Get Used to Losing You," Prince Buster's "Rough Rider"), and all of it delivered to the sacred service of F-U-N. Well, you could do a lot worse, and how. The Beat may not have stuck around long but everything they did was pretty great, infectious, irresistible, thoroughly charming, and with all the crushing weight of a feather, even on the occasional essays at message (such as "Click Click," which appears to oppose guns but plays like a seizure). That's a lot more than you can say for too many acts who overstayed their welcomes and then some. On this impressive debut, the Beat delivers good music for summer days and summer nights, for drinking beer and dancing on backyard patios until the neighbors call the police (you should have remembered to invite them in the first place). It's good loud, particularly with frequent and regular administrations, and can also fit nicely into a daily regimen.

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