Thursday, 23 May 2019

UB40 - Rat In The Kitchen (1986)

You could meet somebody....

  

Released on 28 July 1986

Running Time 43:06

This was the album that saw UB40 move considerably away from the trademark sound that had dominated their first four studio albums. Although their output on this album was still immediately identifiable as UB40, largely due to Ali Campbell's unique voice, there was now a horn-based backing as opposed to Brian Travers' solo saxophone and the drumming was sounding more programmed. The reggae was less authentic sounding too, less skanking, less rootsy. There is still some appealing, poppy material on here, though, it has to be said. It is certainly not a bad album, but it is the point, for me, when UB40 became slightly less credible and more a band that very much followed contemporary trends. Their reggae had become a bit muffled by digital drums and keyboards, but then again, so had much chart reggae at the time. If you think I am being a bit harsh here, let me say that I still like the album.

TRACK LISTING

1. All I Want To Do
2. You Could Meet Somebody
3. Tell It Like It Is
4. The Elevator
5. Watchdogs
6. Rat In Mi Kitchen
7. Looking Down At My Reflections
8. Don't Blame Me
9. Sing Our Own Song                            

"All I Want To Do" is very brassy and although pleasant enough, is a little unremarkable. It is a bit pre-fabricated and lacking in reggae credibility. There is nothing wrong with it, to an extent, but they had done far better. "You Could Meet Somebody" is more catchy, with a nice refrain and some Augustus Pablo-inspired melodica backing. "Tell It Like It Is" continues this lively feel with a keyboard-driven riff similar to the one they used on their cover of "Johnny Too Bad" and the same style of toasting vocals from Astro. This is one of the better cuts on the album.

"The Elevator" is another good track, with a chugging, mysterious feel to it and Travers' saxophone back in the mix on its own at times, which is always a good thing. "Watchdogs" has a very late eighties reggae sound to it, but it has an atmospheric chorus to it, with a typical Campbell vocal. "Rat In Mi Kitchen" has an addictive intro and similar vocal. Its singalong refrain made for a perfect single. The toasting bit, followed by a dubby bass and killer trumpet solo is wonderful, the best bit of music on the album.

"Looking Down On My Reflections" has a vaguely jazzy air about it in its breezy horns and backing vocals. Fair play to the group for trying material that sounded nothing like that on their first three albums, for sure. UB40 were often accused of sounding the same, well, this actually sounded quite a lot different. "Don't Blame Me" was not a single, but sounds like one somehow, with its melodic jauntiness. "Sing Our Own Song" is a captivating and lengthy South African-themed song (Nelson Mandela had not been released from prison yet). It carries a solid message and features excellent backing vocals and rhythms. Yes, I prefer the earlier albums, but this is still worthy of revisiting.

B-

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