Picks and Pans Review: I Just Can't Stop It
The English Beat
Despite auspicious debut releases last winter by Madness, the Specials and the Selecter, the revival of English ska (reggae's faster-tempoed precursor) has never recorded any dance music as sizzling as Mirror in the Bathroom, Two Swords, Click Click and Noise in This World on this LP by the Beat. Wielding a kind of conceptual blowtorch, this six-man racially integrated band from industrial Birmingham fuses the festive beat of ska with the turbulent drive of punk. Their songs have a dervishlike energy, kicked even higher by punchy bass and spangling smashes of guitar. They're abetted by the husky honkings of Saxa, the Beat's 50ish tenor saxophonist (the other band members are 19 to 29), who doesn't play many notes, but chooses them carefully. The digitally recorded disc also contains some straight ska tunes, which are saved from the genre's indigenous peril of monotony by ebullient detailing. Americans should appreciate the idiosyncratic reworkings of the old Andy Williams hit Can't Get Used to Losing You and Smokey Robinson's Tears of a Clown, which emerges from these British throats sounding more like "Tears of a Clone."
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