Special Beat Service

The English Beat

1982: IRS 44797 5069 2

  1. I Confess
  2. Jeannette
  3. Sorry
  4. Sole Salvation
  5. Spar Wid Me
  6. Rotating Head
  7. Save It For Later
  8. She’s Going
  9. Pato & Roger
  10. Sugar and Stress
  11. End of the Party
  12. Ackee 1 2 3

One of the mightiest of the mighty, for me, in terms of the power to evoke times long past. Thankfully the album’s still great fun to listen to even now, as are its individual songs for the most part, but its nostalgic wallop is fierce if you happen to remember this music from those times.

I have my favorite tracks on this, ones I’ve loved for years—“Sugar and Stress,” “She’s Going,” and “Rotating Head,” above all—but in combination they deliver their strongest punch with “End of the Party.” It’s partly the restless chord progression that never resolves, and it’s partly its following the elegantly frantic “Sugar and Stress” and the latter’s abrupt ending, but “End of the Party” for me is like actually hearing the sound at the time, like being *at* a fading party in the very early ’80s as the party animals and other wild ones have moved on and what remains are dregs and earnest private battles being haggled in the face of impending dawn.

That, for me, is a formidible cocktail of baggage and heartstrings, and when the song plays I find myself unable to do anything but listen to it, frozen in place, hypnotized by just one man expressing his anxiety about his relationship with just one woman…. The chords overlap like a very slow shuffling of cards, never changing but always sounding different, and the tone changes only slightly from frustration to mesmerized painful near-resignation. Add to that a dash of heavily hot Walla Walla summer night, and you have a permanent stamp on the psyche…a sound of someone wishing they could just cry and never quite breaking that borderline.

Well, that’s enough about one track. Another standout is “She’s Going,” which for me still ranks as one of the finer achievements of pop music, a track that still makes most of the 1990s rock output look like amazingly lame shit by comparison to the vitality of this baby. It moves at twice the speed of most rock songs, for starters, but on top of that it delivers its arsenal of expression that fast without skimping: the lyric is fierce and almost cutthroat and it’s FAST and utterly danceable as long as you can dance that fast. The chord progressions are on the dark side of kicky but never lag to belabor the point, and the saxophone’s power is like a showoff stallion in the overall context, not showcased so much as teamed with the other thunderingly fast and tight guns that deliver this frantic gem. God, how it conjures up so many hot early ’80s nights for me…. As far as its subject matter goes, it makes an interesting counterpart to the early Eurythmics B-side “Baby’s Gone Blue.”

And through all this, there’s the incongruity of Dave Wakeling’s voice, which is a lovely husky beast that simply does NOT match his physical appearance. It took me years to attach the two, and even now I have a hard time picturing him singing these songs…obviously I need to watch it happen in concert sometime.