Quite why ‘Busy Busy Doing Nothing‘, the second track on this, The Beat‘s first album of new material in more than 30 years, makes me want to strut like a peacock across the landing floor is difficult to say. Perhaps it says more about the reviewer than the music; I’m not sure. Or maybe this incarnation of the band (the other one is led, across the pond, by Ranking Roger’s former bandmate Dave Wakeling) is well aware that they have nailed it and the chest puffing nature of the new material’s sound is a way to let would-be suitors know how confident they are in it. Maybe it just rubbed off on me.
At any rate, had you been cryogenically frozen in 1981 and woken up 35 years later, with ‘Walking On The Wrong Side‘ playing on your bedside radio, you would have thought it was pretty much business as usual, instantly recognising the artist in question, for this one, more than any other, recreates that classic pop-reggae-new-wave feel for which the band were always most famed. While Bounce does supply a handful of nods to the past, however, the good news is that they remain forward-thinking enough to embrace modern culture and recording methods too, creating an often vibrant, colourful palette from which to paint their mostly immediate, agreeable new compositions.
Like The Specials, this band finds themselves – and the UK itself – in a grim place politically, mirroring the bathroom of doom that confronted them the first time around, as the Tory government of the day so severely decimated our society under the Thatcher regime. Nothing, it seems, has changed. It may have even gotten worse, so while the tunes on Bounce are largely infectious, it is welcome and sadly perhaps necessary for the band to continue providing grim social commentary upon the likes of ‘Fire Burn‘, a tremendous piece of music which calls to mind the earliest incarnation of former contemporaries UB40. “In violent times like these/When things can seem impossible/The world will sit and watch instead of being responsible,” sings Roger, before adding, incredulously, “And no-one seems to give a thought for all your troubles/But if we sit and watch/You’ve only got yourself to blame.” A damning indictment, perhaps, of those who didn’t bother to vote in either the general election or the calamitous EU referendum.
For the most part, though, Bounce is a joyous party that works rather well, despite often focusing more on the “pop” side than the ska/reggae that previously made their name. The only time doubts are raised is when they veer dangerously close to Inner Circle‘s 1990s output, and nobody really wants to hear a song that sounds like ‘Sweat (A La La La La Long)‘ again. Do they? Still, more than half of the album could easily be regarded as the seminal Beat sound, and that can only be admired.
Bounce is released on 30th September 2016 through DMF Records.