The Specials

For various boring reasons, this review is a week late.

Some Historical Context

A few weeks ago I told you all how much I disliked reggae. But ska is different to reggae. Ska isn’t one of my favourite musical styles but there can’t be many people who were listening to popular music in the late 1970s who don’t smile and tap their feet when they hear one of the early 2 Tone records.

So there is going to be a lot on this album that I already know and like. But for some reason I always saw the 2 Tone artists as singles artists and never bought a single 2 Tone album. So there will also be a lot of stuff that I’ve never heard.

Note: I appear to have acquired a US version of the album. It includes the track “Gangsters” which was missing from the original UK release.

The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.

The Songs

1. A Message to You, Rudy

We start with something that I know well. This was the single that introduced the album – and it got a lot of airtime on Radio One. This is what I think of as pretty pure ska. It’s a cover version of an old Jamaican song, I think.

2. Do the Dog

This is one I don’t remember hearing before. It’s less ska and has a slightly harder, post-punk edge. Two songs in and I’m already strting to think that this might be be a “nice in small doses” album.

3. It’s Up to You

Another one that I don’t recognise. And the album is getting pretty samey. I suspect that if I took the time to listen to it a few times then it has the potential to grow on me. But I’m currently thinking that my collection really only needs a compilation of the band’s singles.

4. Nite Klub

I thought I knew this one. I certainly recognised the title. But it’s not ringing any bells. Well, only insofar as it sounds a lot like the last few tracks.

5. Doesn’t Make It Alright

A change of pace. This is a lot slower than the last few. Initially that sounded like a good idea, but having got through two verses and choruses I’m just finding it a bit dull and repetitive.

6. Concrete Jungle

This starts with a football chant. Which isn’t exactly a great start. It seems to be about how grim it is living in the Midlands. I’m not sure I could argue with that. This is faster again, but still quite dull and repetitive.

7. Too Hot

This is more like “classic” reggae than anything else we’ve heard so far. And we all know what I think of reggae.

8. Monkey Man

Another song that got a lot of play back in 1979, and therefore something that I know well. And its familiarity amongst so many unknown songs is probably what makes my enjoy it so much even though it’s not musically very different from the rest of the album. If I remember correctly, this is another cover version.

9. (Dawning of A) New Era

Same old same old.

10. Blank Expression

And we move from a dull fast song to a dull slow song.

11. Stupid Marriage

I’m really surprised how little I’m enjoying this album.

12. Too Much Too Young

This is more like it. This was another single – although that was live and this is the original studio version. I remember the lyrics being really shocking in 1979. How times change. Oh, and I’ve just realised that this is much longer than the version I know well. And I have to say that much of the power of the version I know is in its brevity.

13. Gangsters

This was the band’s first single, but it’s not included on the original UK version of the album. It still sounds as fresh and different as it did when I first heard it in 1979 – which is a bit strange as actually it’s pretty similar to the rest of the album which I haven’t been enjoying much at all.

14. Little Bitch

This one just washed over me without me noticing anything about it.

15. You’re Wondering Now

This one sounded alright.

In Summary

I was surprised how little I enjoyed that. There were three or four sounds that I knew and still enjoyed, but everything else was just dull. Can’t see myself listening to this again very soon.



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