Friday, 16 August 2019

Beats International

Let Them Eat Bingo (1990)

Burundi Blues/Dub Be Good To Me/Before I Grow Too Old/The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists/For Spacious Lies/Blame It On The Bassline/Won't Talk About It/Dance To The Drummer's Beat/Babies Makin' Babies (Stoop Rap)/The Whole World's Down On Me/Tribute To King Tubby                                                                 
Norman Cook released a couple of albums under the Beats International name between his time with The Housemartins and his Fatboy Slim DJ thing (which I know nothing about, by the way). What he did here was amass a veritable encyclopaedia of samples combined with dance rhythms to produce some appealing dance/pop. Of course, one can make accusations of plagiarism with all this sampling thing, and to a certain extent I agree with them, but on the other hand, dub reggae producers did it all the time, to great effect. I had no problem with that, so this album can be accepted in the same way. There is definitely a clever inventiveness to it.

Burundi Blues is dominated by world music drum beats (from Burundi, probably), together with a funky bass line and a soulful vocal.

Dub Be Good To Me was a big hit and mixed Paul Simonon's bass line from Guns Of Brixton with SOS Band's Just Be Good To Me. It is a marvellously atmospheric track, full of scratchy rhythms, a distant Lindy Layton vocal and some hip/hop bits too. It is very much a song that brings back 1990 for me. 

Before I Grow Too Old uses a Fats Domino song from the fifties, vamped up with some brass, some summery reggae-ish sounds and strange duck-like noises. It is all very frothy and appealing.


The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has a house style dance beat (I think, I am certainly no expert), with programmed monotonous "drum" beat and a few flute samples thrown in to give it a melodic appeal and some African rap parts. 

The jaunty, catchy For Spacious Lies actually has a serious lyrical message about international financial corruption, arms dealing and the like. It is actually a likeable poppy song.

Blame It On The Bassline is another thumping dance number that samples the JacksonsBlame It On The Boogie.

Won't Talk About It features Billy Bragg on buzzy, distorted guitar riff duty over a soul/disco-ish groove with bits of rap and Shakatak-style piano in there too. Dance To The Drummer's Beat is a disco-esque funky workout, with some great percussion bits. Cook liked his African samples and there are plenty in here too.

Babies Makin' Babies is a bassy hip/hop rap number while The Whole World's Down On Me features the recognisable vocal tones of reggae veteran Ken Boothe on a sort of dance-ish slowed-down reggae skank. 

Tribute To King Tubby you would expect to be a thumping, dubby bass-drenched number worthy of Notting Hill Carnival. Actually it is a breezy, rhythmic number sampling Lionel Richie's All Night Long ("jambo, jambo...") bit.

So there you go, all sorts of sounds making up a real sonic cornucopia. Summery, frothy and enjoyable.

Some of Norman Cook's other work with The Housemartins can be found here :-

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