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!
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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