The New English Beat feat: Ranking Roger: Bounce

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Not too long after I finally got to see the US version of the English Beat Live, I found out that the other iteration of the band had a new album out. It’s been a bit since I bought this, but I was finally able to give it a solid listen today. For those unaware of why I mentioned two versions of the band up there, there are currently two different English Beats with both former singers heading their own version. From what I can gather, there wasn’t any sort of bad break-up or anything (Between Dave and Roger, the band did basically implode in the 80’s with the other members) as Dave Wakeling moved to California in the early 90’s and the rest didn’t want to follow. Both artists tried to do tours with their own names, only to have everyone always call them “The Beat” so they embraced it. Here’s a more detailed answer from an interview with A.V. Club, where the question was asked to Wakeling as to why there was two bands:

Oh, that was quite simple. Whilst we were trying to get five out of the seven members for a reunion show in England, Roger was coming up against the same thing as me; he was being called The Beat over there regardless of what he tried to call himself. The same thing had happened with me. I’d just given up in the end; fine, English Beat, I liked the name anyway, I thought of it, so fine, I’ll be the English Beat.

And so I said, “If you want to use the name in England, that’s fine by me; just don’t screw the legacy, make sure that the shows are always great quality and the fans go home happy and it makes them like the records more rather than less.” And so that was quite an easy thing to sort out. It’s kind of cute, I think, that you can hear “Mirror in the Bathroom” sung live by one of the lead singers on two continents!

 

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Ranking Roger at his personal recording studio

With that in mind, it’s kind of funny to find out that Ranking Roger’s The New English Beat released an album at the very tail end of 2016, with Wakeling planning his own new album sometime this year! But your question may be: How’s Roger’s Beat stack up? is it like the old stuff? well yes and no, but not in a bad way. In all honesty Bounce (the album in question) is basically what I would have expected the band to do in the 90’s if they had stayed together. It’s more polished than the previous albums, seems like it was made on a higher budget, and seems altogether “shinier”. You can feel the vibes from Both English Beat and General Public as well as a slightly more somber tone.

For those that know me, “shininess” is not always a good thing for my musical tastes as I sometimes feel that a lot of modern music, especially pop music, is empty and overproduced. While Bounce doesn’t completely stray down this path, there are a few hints of Coldplay-like guitars and such found in a few songs that really didn’t do a whole lot for me. what I did like was that some of the more mellow songs seemed to be a lot more politically charged than most Beat songs ever where. Take a track like “Walking on the Wrong Side” for instance.

What this means, is that some of the energy found in some of my favorite beat songs like “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Ranking Full Stop” is curiously absent from this record. What we do get are a few lighthearted sentimental tracks to even out the politics, which is a trademark of the sound most bands fall into when they get older. Thankfully this wan’t a total deviation into sappy ballads or anything so that’s a plus.

All in all, this was a solid listen, and a great re-introduction to a band that has basically been doing touring for the past few decades. I’ve personally been hankering for a fourth wave ska movement to pop up, so hearing only a few hints of the rudeboy sound in this record made me a bit disappointed overall. The good news is, that the music stands on it’s own and I plan to include it in my current iPod rotation. I also need to hunt down some of the music Roger did between the original English Beat and this album to see how his sound has progressed. If you enjoy ska, reggae, or The English Beat – do yourself a favor and check this out – despite a few quibbles I have it’s a solid album.

 

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Concert Review: English Beat w/ Deco Auto 3/24/17

I used to have a long commute to work every day, so my chief companion quickly became my car stereo. It took about a year, but I ended up rage-quitting local radio stations completely once I realized that my local “hard rock” station was garbage and that my local “alternative” station was basically folk music garnished by seemingly mandatory Pearl Jam songs. I bought Sirius XM to alleviate all my radio woes, and immediately fell in love with a channel on there called 1st wave.

Whenever I tell folks that I’m into 80’s new wave music, I think a lot of folks assume I love bands like Hall and Oates or something, but honestly I’m only really into that late 70’s – early 80’s scene that sprang up (mostly) in the UK – great news, that’s what they play! I think one of the first times I was listening to 1st Wave Dave Wakeling (of the English Beat and General Public) was on a talk show segment hosted by Richard Blade and I immediately realized just how much I loved the band, and my love for ska was re-energized.

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Readers may recall a while back I was talking about “trying to see more bands on my ‘musical bucket list'”, so when The English Beat popped up on my Jambase page I had to immediately snag some tickets. I’ve always been a fan of ska music, so getting to hear one of the pioneers of the 80’s second wave of ska/two-tone/reggae was definitely something I’ve wanted to do. Some of these bands rarely come over to the United States anymore, but the good news is that Dave Wakeling happens to live in California, so he tours here all the time.

Before I get into the show itself, I wanted to talk about the venue the show was held in, Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City, MO. This was my first time at this venue, and I was really impressed. I’m not a big blues aficionado, which is the style of music most featured at this venue, but I’d love to come here again –  I’ll have to keep an eye out on acts coming in from time to time. This is a promotional ad, but shows off the Place better than I could attempt to describe it.

The compound is made up of a number of venues, with our concert taking place in “The Garage”. This was a roomy music hall with standing room at the front and back, a bar, and some tables – since we arrived early we were able to score some choice table seats.

The supporting act for this show was a local band called Deco Auto which is a power pop band in the vein of a lot of those early 90’s alternative bands that used to get tons of radio play like Weezer and Superchunk. While their music isn’t really my standard listening, they were pretty good even though they had a few technical difficulties during their set. For a few of their songs, one of the vocalists was sadly muted lower than she should have been so we really couldn’t hear the full impact of their music. The highlight of their set was a cover of the Blondie Song “Hanging on the Telephone”, which is always fun to listen to.

Their Bandcamp page

Oh wait, you thought you had seen all of my crappy concert pictures in previous posts, think again – this is a snap of Deco Auto doing their thing.

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Next up was the main event – finally getting to see The English Beat live! Honestly the band shows absolutely no signs of loosing any steps – the music sounds every bit as good as the original albums from 30+ years ago. The set-list was the following:

Rough Rider, The Tears of a Clown, Hands Off…She’s Mine, Twist & Crawl, Rude Boy Skank, I’ll Take You There, Save It for Later, Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret, Too Nice to Talk To, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, Sole Salvation, Tenderness, Ranking Full Stop, Mirror in the Bathroom

There was a LOT of music from their first album which coincidentally is my favorite album of theirs due to the heavy ska and reggae influence. later albums somewhat shifted to arena rock, which is good, but the older stuff is my preference. conspicuously absent was the song “I confess”, perhaps one of their biggest hits, but I’ll gladly trade it for “Tenderness” from General Public.

This iteration of the band is Dave Wakeling on vocals, Nucci Cantrell on drums, Matt Morrish on sax, Kevin Lum and Minh Quan on keyboards, King Schascha on vocals and MC duty, and Brad Engstrom on bass guitar. For those unaware, there are actually two touring versions of the band going around – one helmed by Wakeling and another helmed by Ranking Roger, former bandmate of Wakeling’s in The English Beat and General Public. It seems as though there is no bad blood between the two, as the band originally broke up because the rest of the band wanted to stay in the UK and joined the Fine Young Cannibals, Wakeling moved to the US at some point and it was simply too hard to be a band at that point. Both Roger and Wakeling wanted to tour as themselves, but were always labeled as “The English Beat” so they embraced it.

The cool thing is that both singers bring a bit of a different flavor to the music, so having new albums coming out from both bands this year is a blessing for fans. I recently picked up Bounce, the new album from the UK version of the band – hope to review it on here at some point.

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All-in-all, I had a blast at this show, and hope to get to see the band again next year as they release their new album Here We Go Love. I was also glad to see that despite the age of the band there were fans at the show from pretty much every living generation in attendance. I keep thinking that we’re long overdue for a fourth wave of ska music to get big in the US, seeing so many people supporting a band like this makes me hope that’s true.

In case you’ve never seen this band:


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Concert Review: Voodoo Glow Skulls w/ The Uncouth 3-5-17

Any Concert that lets me where a ridiculous Lucha Libre mask during the show (see above picture), is an A+ in my book! Thankfully, the Voodoo Glow Skulls happened to have some at their merch table, so I was all set. In fact, Lucha masks should really become the new hot fashion tend, I think it’s well past time for it to fall into popularity. All Joking aside, I was able to attend a outdoor night show at a local music venue called The Riot Room this past weekend, one of my first punk shows (I usually do metal shows). I don’t normally attend punk shows, mostly because the type of punk I like is largely not super popular anymore. I’ve never been a huge fan of hardcore, despite liking a few bands, and that pop-punk explosion in the nineties was something I think most old-school punks would have utterly hated as it was basically Hot-Topic in audio form. Thankfully, this show happened to be both types I actually like listening to conveniently in one small package.

This was a very short show for two bands (two hours and some change) so I don’t have a ton to talk about, so think of this as a punk version of one of my reviews on here – short and sweet. As usual, get ready for bad cellphone pictures galore.


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Opener: The Uncouth

 

Here is the band’s Facebook Page

Bandcamp page

Oi! is the old-school UK punk music scene that popped up in the working class areas back in the late 1970’s and 1980’s with the direct goal of uniting all working class punks. The prevalent ideology of the original Oi! movement was a rough brand of working-class rebellion. Lyrical topics included unemployment, workers’ rights, harassment by police and other authorities, and oppression by the government. This is exactly the sort of music the Uncouth specializes in. Being a big fan of eighties music, I was amazed that a modern band could capture that sound so well as this concert.

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Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, The Uncouth take the banner of all of their predecessors, and add a mid-western American flair to it – while the accent is different the sentiment is the same. One reason I don’t enjoy a lot of modern punk music is that it’s a bunch of songs about being a tough guy or losing a girlfriend, and thankfully this sort of band takes everything back to it’s roots. For instance, a song like Jonesy’s War is about a veteran of the Afghanistan war coming home to find that he can’t readjust to his old life. Resorting to drinking and other self-destructive tendencies, Jonesy is still basically at war, and as the chorus shouts, “Jonesy’s a prisoner of war!” It’s a far cry from bands like Sum 41 and Blink 182.


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Headliner: The Voodoo Glow Skulls

Their website

The other kind of punk music I like is ska-punk because I’m a huge fan of old-school ska music (and I’ll be getting to see The English beat in a few weeks). When most folks think of this type of music, they tehy of the sort of stuff that always plays at the Van’s Warped Tour every year, bands like Reel Big Fish. Not being a fan of those guys, I wwas pumped to see The Voodoo Glow Skulls coming to Kansas City after a buddy of mine showed me some of their stuff a while back. And honestly, any band where the lead singer sings a few songs wearing a lucha mask is great.

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Outside of California, this Mexican-American ska punk band is perhaps best known for having some of their songs pop up in movie soundtracks.The song “Shoot the Moon” from the band’s Firme album was used in the Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome and the band’s version of “Used to Love Her” (originally written and recorded by Guns N’ Roses) is featured in the Mr. & Mrs. Smith soundtrack. They mix a lot of old school ska styling (they sort of remind me a bit of Bad Manners) with their Latino heritage into something  awesome. I feel like the United States is due to another ska revival after the one in the mid 90’s fizzled out – here’s hoping they sound like these guys!

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This show had a small, but great crowd, and I saw my first ska version of a mosh pit. Since I’m too old to jump in there (I usually mess my back up moshing) I admired it from afar, doing my standard head-banging that I usually bust out at shows. I will have to keep tabs on the local punk scene more, because if bands like this are starting to get big in Kansas City, I may have to attend more shows.


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