Monday, 28 January 2019
The Beat - Special Beat Service (1982)
Released in 1982
This was The Beat's final album. After "Wha'ppen" saw the group tone down the frantic ska of their debut album in favour of a more laid-back, dubby but soulful sound they diversified even more with this, which often sounded far more like a new wave album than a two tone/ska one. There were influences from The Jam, Joe Jackson, Talking Heads, Dexy's Midnight Runners and even some of the New Romantic groups on here. There is nowhere near the amount of dub influence on this one.
It just didn't really do very well and the band called it a day soon after. Funnily enough, it was more successful in the USA, as "The English Beat". Americans wanted a mix of New Wave and New Romanticism, and the got it here. It is actually as innovative and adventurous as the previous album had been. I don't blame The Beat for trying to widen their style. After all, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, The Jam, Madness and The Specials had all done the same. Personally, I find it a refreshingly enjoyable album.
1. I Confess
4. Sole Salvation
5. Spar Wid Me
6. Rotating Head
7. Save It For Later
8. She's Going
9. Pato And Roger A Go Talk
10. Sugar And Stress
11. End Of The Party
12. Ackee 1-2-3
"I Confess" is a sort of Style Council-ish dancey, jazzy number (although they didn't exist yet) with a Kevin Rowland-influenced vocal. To be honest it doesn't sound much like The Beat at all. Even the saxophone is jazzy. Not much ska to be found here. It is pleasant enough, though, with a nice bass part near the end. At times it almost sounds like ABC or A-Ha it has to be said. "Jeanette" sees a welcome return to what one would expect from the Beat - an upbeat ska skanker with some South African-sounding saxophone. "Sorry" has a beguiling, understated backing, and a sort of melody that seems to be trying to be avant garde, with some Talking Heads-esque vocals and wailing, experimental saxophone sounds.
"Sole Salvation" is very much a new wave number that sounds a bit like some of the stuff The Jam put out right at the end of their career, although the dubby "Spar Wid Me" is a step back on to familiar with some killer riddims and sumptuous saxophone. "Rotating Head" is a jaunty track that has real echoes of the band's debut album. "Save It For Later" is a thumping groover with a Byrds-style jangly guitar sound at times. It is probably the best track on the album. The group's last great one. "She's Going" is a catchy, very Joe Jackson-sounding number, with some Latin-ish guitars and appealing saxophone.
"Pato And Roger A Go Talk" has lashing of typical Saxa saxophone and some toasting from Ranking Roger and guest vocalist Pato Banton. "Sugar And Stress" is pretty typical Beat fare, although even this has a light, acoustic guitar solo in the middle. The romantic "End Of The Party" has Dave Wakeling sounding like Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley, unbelievably. It goes without saying, really, that there is a sublime saxophone solo n the song. "Ackee 1-2-3" sounds as if it straight out of South African township in places. Great stuff.
I have to say I have really enjoyed getting into this again after overlooking it for any years, despite always being a big fan of the first two albums. It was a really good album.
- January 28, 2019