Monday, July 05, 2010

Special Beat Service (1982)

"I Confess" With their third album in little more than two years, the Beat had deepened and mellowed from their new wave origins into something awfully close to a for-real soul band even as they continued to swing wild stylistically. That soul impression might be due only to the presence of a full-fledged horn section on several of the tracks, but I think it actually has more to do with the quantum leaps forward taken by Ranking Roger, who gets a certain amount of convincing desperation into his yelping vocal performance when the songs call for it. The songwriting and especially the arrangements (piano player Dave Blockhead really starts bringing it here) are better too, more cohesive in putting together an organic sound—it's a band that knows itself pretty well by this point—though they still don't appear to have a lot to say. It all seemed promising enough but, unfortunately, this was the end of the line for them, at least for a couple of decades, as the principals blew apart and went on to various other projects, most notably General Public (Ranking Roger, guitarist/singer Dave Wakeling) and Fine Young Cannibals (guitarist Andy Cox, bassist David Steele, joining forces with singer Roland Gift). Ah, Britain. Ah, the '80s. To me, this was the Beat's most quixotic and fascinating album, one that I played often, patiently waiting for some deep connections I sensed there to kick in. Hearing it again all this time later surprises me how it produces the same sensation. It's a perfectly pleasant, even enticing 40 minutes, and it's not even far-fetched to wonder if it won't one day yet become a kind of small obsession or wonder in itself. But yeah, then the attention seems to wander off again.

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