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The Beat The Beat
Album: Bounce
Label: DMF
Tracks: 11

Over 30 years since The Beat released their last album? Really? It only seems like yesterday when "Special Beat Service" was a constant presence on my rickety old turntable, with it's instantly recognisable but innovative mix of ska, reggae, pop and world music turned up to volume 5 (that was as high as it got!) knocking all other pretenders into a cocked hat. Music to have a great time to, but at the same time music with a worldwide message. And boy is it mightily refreshing in these auto-tuned formulaic times to not just have Ranking Roger and The Beat back on album, but to witness and hear the continuation of a band that have been sorely missed on the recording front.

As a reviewer I always regard accompanying press releases with a wink of a cynical eye, but in this instance I would heartily concur with the assertion that 'truly great bands are the ones you recognise in an instant. From a snatch of vocal, an inimitable snap and swagger of rhythm, a sonic fingerprint that says this could not possibly be anyone else..'. The moment the opening bass-driven skanking beat and sax(a) of "Walking On The Wrong Side" strikes up you just KNOW that this is The Beat.

"Avoid The Obvious" recalls the "Too Nice To Talk To" period in atmosphere, but in typical Beat fashion is a stirring mash up of dance hall rhythm, killer chorus topped off with a warning. It's what The Beat have done best really since 1979 when "Tears Of A Clown" / "Ranking Full Stop" thrust them firmly into the fickle spotlight of fame via the Two Tone revolution. However, the band then progressed with indecent haste to become one of THE quintessential bands and musical standard bearers of the 80's, leaving behind all attempts to pigeonhole them as revivalists, and creating their own unique sound and identity that is just as refreshing today as it was back then.

1981's "Wha'ppen?" was in hindsight a landmark album with it's mind-boggling array of musical styles blended to form a unique sound of their own. But that commercial edge was never far away and "Bounce" is no different in that respect. "Heaven Hiding" with it's chiming guitar, Roger's characteristic easy-lilting vocal and head spinning harmonies make this an obvious choice for radio airplay.

Of course, in reality Ranking Roger and his band have never been far away from the beat(ing) heart of the UK's live music scene since reforming back in 2003. They are still, as they were back then, a powerhouse live act with the twin vocal attack of Roger and his son Ranking Junior proving to be an irresistible combination. If you've been to one of their shows then you'll know that the energy that these two exude is of gargantuan proportions, and that in turn reflects on their audiences who are transformed into twisting, writhing, jumping behemoths. Yes "Bounce" is indeed an apt title for the album!

Naturally "Stand Down Margaret" is still a massive live favourite. Sadly the song is still as relevant today as it was back then. And "Fire Burn" from this new release is in some ways a fitting follow up on that sentiment. Chiko Hamilton's reverential sax precedes a dub-wise beat and an ernest but tuneful vocal that takes on a world problem view 'when criminals of war attain more rights than victims, my god it's a shame, it's insane, Guantanamo Bay…'. Irony indeed at a time when Tony B(liar) squirms in the dock whilst thousands of bereaved families grieve for loved ones needlessly gone.

The production duties on "Bounce" have in the main been taken by Mick Lister, with the legend that is Dennis Bovell contributing to two of the songs. And it has to be said that they have made a wonderful job of it - the clarity of purpose is latent and a mantra of 'less is more' is all-pervasive as the album is quite literally a joy to listen to. Of course, that wouldn't be possible without the songs, all written by a combination of Ranking Roger, Mick Lister and Ranking Junior.

It's a collection of songs that inspire and move in equal measure. It's a collection of songs that defy you to stand still. Most of all though, it's a collection of songs that prove that the heart of The Beat is very much alive and kicking at the doors (of your heart) - still as relevant today as they always were, and for that we should all be eternally grateful!

Ken Brown